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Black hole radio jet 'pointed directly at Earth'


Posted on Wednesday, 23 January, 2019 | Comment icon 19 comments

A simulation of the black hole. Image Credit: Bronzwaer/Davelaar/Moscibrodzka/Falcke/Radboud University
The supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way seems to be pointing a radio jet directly towards us.
The unnerving, though harmless discovery was made recently by astronomers who managed to capture the clearest and most high-resolution image of the galactic behemoth ever taken.

To achieve this, they used a technique known as 'very long baseline interferometry' (VLBI) which effectively combines multiple telescopes to create a single, much larger virtual telescope.

To help peer through the thick cloud of gas, dust and plasma surrounding the black hole, the team used computer models to simulate what lies inside.

They found that the black hole's radio emission was coming from a much smaller area of the sky than previously realized - a mere 300 millionth of a degree.

This suggests that the radio jet may in fact be pointing directly towards us.

Fortunately however it is unlikely to cause us any harm and may even offer a unique opportunity to study the black hole in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

The Event Horizon Telescope - a collaborative effort to create a global network of radio telescopes - should yield some of the most detailed images yet of the black hole in the not-too-distant future.

Source: Sky News | Comments (19)

Tags: Black Hole

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by L.A.T.1961 on 23 January, 2019, 22:27
The source looks to be much smaller than 1/300 degree measuring 300 millionth of a degree.  If the signal is a jet then the black hole must be rotating on it's side, relative to the galactic plane, and it's poles rotating with the galaxy ? which would be unusual, to say the least.   http://astronomy.com/news/2019/01/radio-jets-from-the-milky-ways-black-hole-could-be-pointing-right-at-earth   
Comment icon #11 Posted by bison on 23 January, 2019, 22:51
Yes, my error. Thank you, L.A.T. 1961.   300 millionths of a degree, not 1/300 of a degree. That seems to make it very much more against the odds that the beam would happen to be pointed our way.
Comment icon #12 Posted by smokeycat on 24 January, 2019, 12:40
Black hole radio jet pointed 'almost directly at Earth' should be the title...
Comment icon #13 Posted by TripGun on 24 January, 2019, 15:02
Its' more like a 2 gauge shotgun pointed at us... I think we need to point some ICBM's at it to be on the safe side.
Comment icon #14 Posted by WelshRed on 25 January, 2019, 20:35
If it's pointing directly at us I would guess that this means this radio 'jet' is almost certainly pointing in every direction so wherever you are in the galaxy you would pick this up and therefore assume it's pointing directly at you relative you your position in the galaxy unaware that it is actually in every direction.
Comment icon #15 Posted by bison on 25 January, 2019, 23:37
If it's an actual black hole radio jet, it should be quite narrow. That such a thing is apparently pointing almost directly at us is remarkable. Such narrow jets are the way that black holes normally release large amounts of energy. That's probably what's happening. If it goes against the norm, and the radio emission are from matter falling toward the black hole event horizon, then a sizable area around the star could be involved, over a relatively wide angle. It may eventually be possible to definitely say which of the two scenarios is the correct one. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by bmk1245 on 26 January, 2019, 13:54
Just out of curiosity, how narrow do you think it is?
Comment icon #17 Posted by bison on 26 January, 2019, 18:48
Almost laser-like, judging from some of the artists interpretations of black hole jets, intended to be scientifically accurate. An interesting problem here, mentioned by L.A.T. 1961, above, is the fact that the jet would be expected to point upward and downward, at right angles to the galactic plane. To reach us, it would have to point along this plane, instead.  
Comment icon #18 Posted by Nnicolette on 3 February, 2019, 19:01
Something doesn't add up. We are at such an odd angle for this to happen that the probability of it is too miniscule to ignore. So what kind of emmissions are coming? 
Comment icon #19 Posted by bison on 3 February, 2019, 20:18
The radio emissions are anticipated to occupy a very wide range of frequencies. The ALMA radio telescope, and a network of others received them at a frequency of 86 GigaHertz, wavelength 3.5 millimeters. Plans to observe the phenomenon at 230 GigaHertz are being considered.   The whole situation is a strange one. The oddity of a narrow beam pointing just our way is remarkable. A way of getting around this problem is to posit that the emissions are not a true radio jet, but that they come from matter falling into the blackhole. This would project radio waves in many directions at once, and so r... [More]


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