A stellar black hole capable of expelling powerful jets of particles

July 12, 2010

Two French astronomers, working in collaboration with a London-based researcher, have discovered a stellar black hole emitting powerful jets of particles of a total length of 1,000 light years.

Normally, the energy produced by matter falling into a black hole of this type is mainly transformed into X-rays, not into jets. This exceptional black hole is a miniature version of certain supermassive present in the active nuclei of . Its discovery, which should improve our understanding of the phenomena involved, is reported in the journal Nature of 8 July 2010.

The two CNRS astronomers, based at the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg) and their colleague, based at University College London, used the Very Large Telescope (ESO, Mount Paranal, Chile) and the Chandra X-ray telescope (NASA) in orbit around the Earth. The black hole on which they worked is located at the edge of galaxy NGC 7793, twelve million from Earth.

The two jets of matter that they observed are the most powerful ever discovered for this type of black hole, resulting from the collapse of a star. The jets push back the interstellar medium, hollowing out a large bubble of relativistic and very hot gases around the black hole. This bubble radiates in the optical, X-ray and radio wavelengths: it has been expanding for 200,000 years and now measures 1,000 light years in diameter. It is inflating at a speed close to one million kilometers per hour.

Until now, it was thought that the energy produced by a black hole swallowing matter was mainly emitted in the form of radiation, particularly X-rays. This discovery is all the more surprising as it shows that certain black holes can emit much more energy in the form of jets of particles. These jets, when they come into contact with interstellar gas, trigger a shockwave that causes heating and accelerates the expansion of the bubble.

In the case of the active nuclei of galaxies, which contain supermassive black holes, jets of particles are also observed streaming in the intergalactic medium. This discovery should therefore elucidate the mechanisms by which these jets are produced and their impact on the near and distant environment of the black hole.


More information: A 300 parsec long jet-inflated bubble around a powerful microquasar in the galaxy NGC 7793, Nature, 8 July 2010, M. W. Pakull, R. Soria and C. Motch

Related Stories


August 5, 2004

With almost limitless gravitational power, black holes are supposed to gulp everything that comes near them, even weightless light photons. So astronomers have long sought explanations for observations that black holes emit ...

Black Hole Blows Bubble Between The Stars

August 11, 2005

A team of astronomers from The Netherlands and the UK has discovered a vast "jet-powered bubble" formed in the gas around a black hole in the Milky Way.

Chandra data reveal rapidly whirling black holes

January 10, 2008

A new study using results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory provides one of the best pieces of evidence yet that many supermassive black holes are spinning extremely rapidly. The whirling of these giant black holes drives ...

An Intriguing, Glowing Galaxy

May 14, 2009

A supermassive black hole may be responsible for the glowing appearance of galaxy 3C 305, located about 600 million light years away in the constellation Draco. Composite data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other ...

Black Hole Pumps Iron

September 14, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- This composite image of the Hydra A galaxy cluster shows 10-million- degree gas observed by Chandra in blue and jets of radio emission observed by the Very Large Array in pink. Optical data from the Canada- ...

Black hole blows big bubble

July 7, 2010

Combining observations made with ESO's Very Large Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have uncovered the most powerful pair of jets ever seen from a stellar black hole. This object, also known as a microquasar, ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...

Image: Pluto's blue sky

October 9, 2015

Pluto's haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn's moon ...

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2010
Perhaps these "powerful jets of particles" are not coming from black holes, but from some other massive compact objects that are energized by repulsive interactions between neutrons.

See: "Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source", Journal of Fusion Energy 20 (December 2001) 197-201; DOI: 10.1023/A:1023485018692

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
4 / 5 (4) Jul 13, 2010
Or maybe it is just because matter is falling in an unusually dense accretion disk.

There is ONLY YOU claiming neutron repulsion so there is NO confirmation. You can't confirm yourself and that table doesn't show any such thing in the first place. It only shows that massive atoms need more neutrons for stability.

not rated yet Jul 26, 2010
"Normally, the energy produced by matter falling into a black hole of this type is mainly transformed into X-rays, not into jets."
This statement is not precisely correct. The X-rays are produced by a jet of particles decelerating in the environment and emitting X-rays.

As for "normally", normally GRB's are considered collimated jets and they are observed in all sort of frequencies not only in X-rays. And the beloved mechanism of their formation is precisely accreation-powered BZ process. Meaning the matter fall on the compact object and then it's accelerated as a jet.

Jets are actually very common for our Universe and they are observed in all sorts of objects - from new stars, trough neutron stars all the way to AGNs.

AND a black hole is not a black hole until you get a reasonable evidence of the occurrence of a black hole horizon. Before that, it's just a dark compact stellar object.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.