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Animations: Black Hole Outburst Caught on Video
A Tour of a Black Hole Outburst Caught on Video
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 03:05]

With closed-captions (at YouTube)

Astronomers have caught a black hole hurling hot material into space at close to the speed of light. This flare-up was captured in a new movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The black hole and its companion star make up a system called MAXI J1820+070, located in our Galaxy about 10,000 light years from Earth. The black hole in MAXI J1820+070 has a mass about eight times that of the Sun. This makes it a so-called stellar-mass black hole, formed by the destruction of a massive star.

The companion star orbiting the black hole has about half the mass of the Sun. The black hole's strong gravity pulls material away from the companion star into an X-ray emitting disk surrounding the black hole.

Some of the hot gas in the disk will cross what is called the event horizon, or, the point of no return, and fall into the black hole. But some of it is also blasted away from the black hole in a pair of short beams of material, or jets. These jets are pointed in opposite directions, launched from outside the event horizon along magnetic field lines.

Using four observations obtained by Chandra in 2018 and 2019, astronomers were able to capture footage of this black hole's behavior.

Just how fast are the jets of material moving away from the black hole? From Earth's perspective, it looks as if the northern jet is moving at 60% the speed of light, while the southern one is traveling at an impossible-sounding 160% of light speed!

This is an example of superluminal motion, a phenomenon that occurs when something travels towards us near the speed of light, along a direction close to our line of sight. This means the object travels almost as quickly towards us as the light it generates, giving the illusion that the jet's motion is more rapid than the speed of light. In the case of MAXI J1820+070, the southern jet is pointing towards us and the northern jet is pointing away from us, so the southern jet appears to be moving faster than the northern one. The actual velocity of the particles in both jets is greater than 80% of the speed of light, which is, amazingly, about 500 million miles per hour.


A Quick Look at a Black Hole Outburst Caught on Video
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 1:12]

Astronomers have caught a black hole hurling hot material into space at close to the speed of light.

This flare-up was captured in a new movie from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in 2018 and 2019.

The black hole and its nearby companion star are located in our Galaxy about 10,000 light years from Earth.

The black hole's strong gravity pulls material away from the companion star into a disk surrounding the black hole.

Some of this material is blasted away from the black hole in a pair of short beams of material, or jets.

These jets are moving at about 80% the speed of light, or about 500 million miles per hour.

Researchers estimate that about 400 million billion pounds of material have been blown away from the black hole in these two jets.


MAXI J1820 Timelapse (Labeled)
(Credit: NASA/CXC/Université de Paris/M. Espinasse et al)
[Runtime: 0:02]

A pair of jets blasting away from a black hole at 80% the speed of light has been observed by astronomers. The stellar-mass black hole (about 8 times the mass of the Sun) is pulling material away from a closely orbiting companion star. Some of this material does not fall into the black hole and is instead redirected outward as jets. Four observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in 2018 and 2019 allowed astronomers to detect the jets as they slam into surrounding material. "Day 0" corresponds to the first observation on November 13th, 2018 and the jet launched on July 7th, 2018.


MAXI J1820 Timelapse (Unlabeled)
(Credit: NASA/CXC/Université de Paris/M. Espinasse et al)
[Runtime: 0:02]

A pair of jets blasting away from a black hole at 80% the speed of light has been observed by astronomers. The stellar-mass black hole (about 8 times the mass of the Sun) is pulling material away from a closely orbiting companion star. Some of this material does not fall into the black hole and is instead redirected outward as jets. Four observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in 2018 and 2019 allowed astronomers to detect the jets as they slam into surrounding material.


Zoom into MAXI J1820
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)
[Runtime: 0:24]

Astronomers have caught a stellar-mass black hole hurling hot material into space at close to the speed of light using four Chandra observations taken in 2018 and 2019. This movie shows a series of optical and infrared images zooming in to the location of MAXI J1820+070. MAXI J1820 is a system with a black hole and companion star about 10,000 light years from Earth. Chandra data of it, as seen in the timelapse, reveal that two jets pointed in opposite directions, launched just outside the event horizon, are blasting away from the black hole at about 80% of the speed of light.




Return to: Black Hole Outburst Caught on Video (May 29, 2020)