Monday, August 22, 2022

Unearthing Gigantic Black Hole Jets in NGC2663 Galaxy

12:13 AM | , , ,

Gigantic Black Hole Jets

In a groundbreaking astronomical discovery, researchers from Western Sydney University have identified one of the most colossal black hole jets known to us – a stunning display of cosmic phenomena.

This gargantuan jet, extending over a million light-years, emanates from a black hole with tremendous energy, nearly at the speed of light. However, its journey through the vast cosmic expanses between galaxies is not always unimpeded.

Deep Dive into the Cosmos

The NGC2663 galaxy, situated a relatively modest 93 million light-years from us, is part of our cosmic locality. To put it in perspective, if our Milky Way galaxy were a house, NGC2663 would be the neighboring suburb.

Through an ordinary telescope, NGC2663 appears as an elliptical galaxy with a familiar oval shape, housing approximately ten times the number of stars as our Milky Way. However, a closer inspection with CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) in Western Australia, a system of 36 interconnected radio dishes forming a single mega-telescope, unveils a different story[4].

The ASKAP's radio waves expose a jet of matter, propelled out of the galaxy by a central black hole. This high-powered stream of material, about 50 times larger than the galaxy, would eclipse the size of the Moon in our night sky if we could see it.

Astoundingly, the jet's remarkable scale (crossing over a million light-years) and the relative proximity of NGC2663 make it one of the largest known jets in the cosmos.

The Spectacle of Shock Diamonds

So, what does this highly detailed, astronomically 'close-up' view of an extragalactic jet reveal? This investigation, spearheaded by doctoral candidate Velibor Velović of Western Sydney University and set for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, provides intriguing insights.

The study's Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) survey uncovers evidence of intergalactic matter resisting the jet's sides. This phenomenon is comparable to the effect observed in jet engines, where the exhaust plume, while blasting through the atmosphere, experiences ambient pressure causing it to expand and contract, pulsing as it travels[8].

The jet exhibits regular bright spots, termed "shock diamonds" due to their shape. These are areas where the flow compresses, causing it to glow more brightly[9]. This pioneering research further illuminates the intricate dynamics of our universe and the captivating phenomena it hosts.

Black hole jets from NGC2663 compared to a jet engine. Top image: observations from the ASKAP radio telescope. Bottom: a methane rocket successfully being tested in the Mojave Desert. Note the patterns of compression. (Mike Massee/XCOR)

Biggest one yet

As well as in jet engines, shock diamonds have been seen in smaller, galaxy-sized jets. We've seen jets slam into dense clouds of gas, lighting them up as they bore through. But jets being constricted from the sides is a more subtle effect, making it harder to observe.

However, until NGC2663, we've not seen this effect on such enormous scales.

This tells us there is enough matter in the intergalactic space around NGC2663 to push against the sides of the jet. In turn, the jet heats and pressurizes the matter.

This is a feedback loop: intergalactic matter feeds into a galaxy, galaxy makes black hole, black hole launches jet, jet slows supply of intergalactic matter into galaxies.

These jets affect how gas forms into galaxies as the universe evolves. It's exciting to see such a direct illustration of this interaction.

The EMU survey, which is also responsible for identifying a new type of mysterious astronomical object called an "Odd Radio Circle", is continuing to scan the sky. This remarkable radio jet will soon be joined by many more discoveries.

As we do, we'll build up a better understanding of how black holes intimately shape the galaxies forming around them.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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