First direct image of a black hole expelling a powerful jet

This barrier made it possible to discern very small details in the region around M87’s black hole.

This new image helps astrophysicists better understand how black holes are able to propel such energetic jets in their neighbourhood.


  • The first image of a black hole, the one at the center of Messier 87, was shown to the world in April 2019.
  • The first image of Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, was released in May 2022.
  • A black hole is a celestial body that has a very large mass with a very small size, as if the diameter of the Sun is only a few kilometers or the Earth pressed into the head of a pin.
  • Black holes are so massive that nothing escapes them, not matter, not even light. So they are practically invisible, so no telescope was able to see them before 2019.
  • There are several types of black holes. The primitive is very small in size. They were formed during the Big Bang in the very dense regions of the primordial universe. The intermediates oscillate between 100 and 10,000 solar masses.
  • Supermassive black holes are found at the center of most galaxies, and their masses are millions or even billions of times that of the Sun.

Objects with mysterious dynamics

While black holes are known to devour matter in their immediate vicinity, they can also propel powerful jets of matter that extend far beyond the galaxies in which they live.Explained in a press release by European Southern Observatory (ESO) scientists who participated in the work published in the journal nature (A new window) (in English).

But the phenomenon of jets of matter remains poorly understood to this day. We don’t fully understand how this happens yet. To study it directly, we must observe the origin of the jet as close as possible to the black hole.says astrophysicist Ro Sen Lu of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China.

The first astronomer

The publication gives the first direct image of matter being ejected from a black hole for the first time Insight into the phenomenon by showing how the base of the jet is in contact with matter orbiting a supermassive black hole.

So far, observations have made it possible to obtain separate images of the region near the black hole and the jet, but this is the first time that these two properties have been observed together. This new image completes the picture by showing the region around the black hole and the jet at the same timenoted in the press release, astrophysicist Jae-Young Kim of Kyungpook National University in South Korea and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.

around the shadow of a black hole

So the image released by the International Collaboration shows the jet emanating near the black hole, but also what astrophysicists call the black hole’s shadow.

Matter orbiting the black hole heats up and emits light. The black hole bends and captures some of this light, creating a ring-like structure around the black hole visible from Earth.say the researchers.

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In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope team published an image of the darkness at the center of the ring (the shadow of the black hole).

The image released today combines data captured by many radio telescopes around the world. Shows the radio light emitted from a specific wavelength The jet emerging from the emission ring around the central supermassive black holeadds astrophysicist Thomas Kirchbaum of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The size of the ring observed by the GMVA is about 50% larger than the size of the image from the Event Horizon Telescope.

In order to better understand the physical origin of this larger, thicker ring, we had to use computer simulations to test different scenarios. »

Quote from Keiichi Asada of Academia Sinica in Taiwan

The results indicate that the new image reveals more material falling toward the black hole than has been seen with the Event Horizon Telescope in the past.

The GMVA network includes 14 radio telescopes in Europe and North America. Two other facilities are attached to the GMVA: the Greenland Telescope and ALMA, of which ESO is a partner.

The information gathered by these telescopes was combined using a technique called interferometry, which synchronizes the signals from these instruments scattered across the Earth.

Planes under the magnifying glass

In the next few years, this network of telescopes will collect data that will provide a better understanding of how supermassive black holes give off powerful jets. We plan to observe the region around the black hole at the center of M87 at various radio wavelengths in order to study the emission from the jet in more detail.explains Eduardo Ross of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The scientists hope that these simultaneous observations will make it possible to do so Uncover complex processes that occur near a supermassive black hole. The coming years will be exciting, as we can learn more about what is happening near one of the most mysterious regions of the universe.Eduardo Ros concludes.

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