A wise man once said that there are more stars in the observable Universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth. Now get a load of this: scientists estimate that there’s a similar number of black holes out there as well.
Usually, black holes are portrayed as huge dark monsters of the Universe that absorb just about everything that comes their way. While that description is not far from the truth, those cosmic objects also have a dark side. They can also fire huge jets of plasma toward the depths of the Cosmos, and one good example is represented by the black hole known as M87.
The M87 black hole enters the cosmic scene
For the first time ever, astronomers are able to see both a black hole and its jet of plasma in the same image. Yes, M87, we’re looking at you!
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has made the big announcement that some astronomers have been waiting for years. In a tweet, the observatory reveals both an image and details regarding the achievement:
1/ 📢 #BreakingNews: astronomers have obtained a new image of the #BlackHole at the centre of the M87 galaxy. For the first time we see both the black hole's shadow and its powerful jet together in the same image.
📷 R.-S. Lu (SHAO), E. Ros (MPIfR), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF) pic.twitter.com/5OTBQUmRwq
— ESO (@ESO) April 26, 2023
Toney Minter, an astronomer from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, explained:
The original EHT imaging revealed only a portion of the accretion disk surrounding the center of the black hole. By changing the observing wavelengths from 1.3 millimeters to 3.5 millimeters, we can see more of the accretion disk, and now the jet, at the same time,
This revealed that the ring around the black hole is 50 percent larger than we previously believed.
The M87 galaxy, which is an abbreviation from Messier 87, is also known as Virgo A or NGC 4486. The celestial object qualifies as a supergiant elliptical galaxy, and it has its location established somewhere in the constellation Virgo. A few trillion stars exist in that constellation.