A little over a year ago it was reported that NASA saw something emerge from a black hole for the first time.
Observations from Swift, one of NASA’s Explorer missions, coupled with the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) noticed a gigantic eruption of light bursting from the middle of a supermassive black hole in the constellation Pegasus.
The constellation is around 324 million light years away. These observations suggest that this event can occur in which coronas, sources of incredibly energetic particles, start to build up surrounding a black hole. They can without a moment’s notice burst out away from it, ejecting an intense beam of X-ray light.
Dan Wilkins, from Canada’s Saint Mary’s University said:
“This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare. This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe.”
They say black holes don’t release light themselves technically, but when they are spotted with a ring of light around them, that’s probably due to these energetic bright particles being drawn toward them, building up.
Coronas are also quite common features, but people don’t know much about how they form yet. If you want to take NASA’s word for it, they suggest coronas could be formed from what they call a lamppost model. NASA said, as quoted by one article:
“The ‘lamppost’ model says they are compact sources of light, similar to light bulbs, that sit above and below the black hole, along its rotation axis.
The new data support the ‘lamppost’ model – and demonstrate, in the finest detail yet, how the light-bulb-like coronas move.”
Remarking on how that light was ejected from the corona, Dan Wilkins continued:
“The corona gathered inward at first and then launched upwards like a jet.
We still don’t know how jets in black holes form, but it’s an exciting possibility that this black hole’s corona was beginning to form the base of a jet before it collapsed.”
Scientists claim coronas move at a very rapid speed, with this one traveling at “20 percent the speed of light.”
NASA continued, according to one article:
“When this happens, and the corona launches in our direction, its light is brightened in an effect called relativistic Doppler boosting.
Putting this all together, the results show that the X-ray flare from this black hole was caused by the ejected corona.”
There is no end to the joy that a person can derive from learning about the stars. Next time you look at the constellation Virgo in the sky, check for Spica. You wouldn’t know unless you saw it through a powerful telescope, but it’s actually a double star, two stars rapidly orbiting each other at such a fast pace, they are egg shaped. According to Earth Sky:
“Spica looks like one star, but it is at least two stars, both larger and hotter than our sun, orbiting only 18 million kilometers (11 million miles) apart. That’s in contrast to 150 million kilometers (93.3 million miles) for Earth’s distance from our sun. Their mutual gravity distorts each star into an egg shape, with the pointed ends facing each other as they whirl around, completing a single orbit in only four days.”