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Sagittarius A*: New Evidence For A Jet From Milky Way's Black Hole
Sagittarius A*
Sagittarius A*

  • The best case yet for a jet from the Milky Way's black hole has been made.

  • Jets of high-energy particles are found throughout the Universe on large and small scales.

  • A jet from the Milky Way's black hole would reveal information about how it is spinning.

  • Astronomers used data from Chandra and the VLA to make this detection.

New evidence has been uncovered for the presence of a jet of high-energy particles blasting out of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole. As outlined in the press release, astronomers have made the best case yet that such a jet exists by combining X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory with radio emission from the NSF's Very Large Array (VLA).

This composite image features both X-rays from Chandra (purple) and radio data from the VLA (blue). A labeled version of this image — seen by mousing over the image — reveals the position of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short) and the suspected jet.

The location of a shock front is also marked. As the jet fires away from Sgr A*, it travels through space until it hits gas several light years away. (The region around the Milky Way's black hole has many clumps of gas and dust.) Once the jet hits, it triggers the formation of a shock front. This interaction also accelerates electrons, generating X-rays as the electrons stream down the path of the jet, past the shock front.

The shock front is also of interest because it is unusually wide in the radio emission compared to the more narrow profile of the jet in X-rays. This suggests that there may be a secondary, weaker outflow, which might be like a sheath or cocoon surrounding the jet with an opening angle of around 25 degrees.

Sgr A* is about 4 million times the mass of the Sun and lies about 26,000 light years from Earth in the center of the Galaxy. Astronomers have been looking for a jet from Sgr A* for years since it is now common to find jets tied to a range of cosmic objects on both big and small scales. Prior to this latest study, there have been reports of possible evidence of a jet associated with Sgr A*. However, these have contradicted one another and have thus not been considered definitive.

A paper describing these results is available online and will appear in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.


Fast Facts for Sagittarius A*:
Credit  X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z.Li et al; Radio: NRAO/VLA
Release Date  November 20, 2013
Scale  Image is 1.2 arcmin across (about 9 light years)
Category  Black Holes, Milky Way Galaxy
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 17h 45m 40s | Dec -29° 00´ 28.00"
Constellation  Sagittarius
Observation Date  54 pointings between Sep 1999 and Mar 2011
Observation Time  477 hours 21 min (19 days 21 hours 21 min)
Obs. ID  242, 945, 1561, 2273, 2276, 2282, 2284, 2943, 2951-2954, 3392, 3393, 3549, 3663, 3665, 4500, 4683, 4684, 5360, 5950-5954, 6113, 6363, 6639-6646, 7048, 7554-7559, 9169-9174, 10556, 11843, 12949, 13438, 13508
Instrument  ACIS
Also Known As Galactic Center
References Li, Z. et al, 2013, ApJ (accepted); arXiv:1310.0146
Color Code  X-ray (Pink); Radio (Blue)
Distance Estimate  About 26,000 light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (5)

Excellent photographs evidence for black hole and its activities.

Posted by Prof. Dr. M. Khalid Anis on Wednesday, 09.17.14 @ 22:47pm

It seems common sense to expect black holes to have a similar effect on galaxies to that of stars on their planetary systems.

The universe follows a constraint set of rules in its development.

Posted by Joshua Bernal on Saturday, 12.7.13 @ 21:17pm

So where is the opposite jet.
It's not likely to be coming out from one side only. If the forces that push a jet from within the black mass are strong enough to overcome the gravity holding it in at the pole then it will also come out the other pole.

Posted by Ty Tower on Thursday, 11.28.13 @ 19:13pm

Great Pic.

Posted by Joe Momma on Friday, 11.22.13 @ 16:35pm

Am I correct in thinking that the X-rays we see, coming from the center of our galaxy, imply an energy source so powerful that it can not be explained by a simple stellar source i.e. center of star fusion? So, the hypothesis is that there is a black hole, so massive, that it attracts material to it in enormous quantities, such that the material, as it reaches the accretion disc, around the black hole, will be traveling at  near-light speed and thus emit the X-rays that we measure.

Posted by David Williams on Thursday, 11.21.13 @ 12:24pm

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