Posted on behalf of Miriam Frankel.
A relatively small stellar black hole is releasing unexpectedly large amounts of energy in the form of jets of fast-moving particles. The jets smash into the surrounding gas, heating it up, and creating an enormous bubble that is over 1000 light years across*. The bubble is estimated to expand at an astonishing rate of nearly one million kilometres per hour. See (press release)
The object in question is a so-called ‘microquasar’. It has the black hole at its centre and is surrounded by a disk of material and a pair of radio jets, which are the most powerful ones registered so far. Although the core black hole is only a few solar masses, the gas bubble it ignites is much larger than those in other microquasars -where they are typically a mere 10 light years across, explains Space.com
Black holes release energy when devouring matter from their surroundings. The largest releases are thought to take the form of x-ray emissions. But the research suggests that some black holes can relinquish at least the same amount of energy through collimated jets of fast-moving particles.
The discovery was made using images and data from the European Southern Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The researchers estimate that the microquasar must have been spewing out jets for the past 200,000 years. They published their results in Nature.
Very powerful jets have been seen emerging from supermassive black holes – the type found at the centre of galaxies. But the jets were thought to be less common in the smaller sort, the microquasars. Ever wondered why? The researchers think that they may simply not have been noticed before.
*Corrected 9 July. The orange object in the picture is a bloated star feeding the black hole – not the gas bubble itself, as first stated.