First black hole ever photographed now appears to be ‘glittering’

Moya Lothian McLean
Friday 25 September 2020 14:15
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(iStock)

It’s not just humans who can put their gladrags on.

Apparently astronomical phenomena can too.

The team who photographed the first known image of a black hole last year have now revealed a fresh new discovery: an incredible “wobbling shadow” that makes the black hole appear to glitter.

In 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, a project overseen by scientists from all over the globe, unveiled the picture of a black hole.

It caused quite a stir at the time… and many memes.

Well the latest entry in M87’s chapter in history concerns the crescent that encircles it.

Apparently the ring that surrounds the black hole is ‘wobbling’.

(M. Wielgus & the EHT Collaboration)(M. Wielgus & the EHT Collaboration)

While the black hole shadow itself stays the same shape and diameter, scientists examining data taken of the phenomena since 2009, discovered that the glowing golden ring does not.

Its brightness appears to fluctuate and the brightest part of the ring – which is made up of dust and gas “feeding” into the black hole – appears to move.

"Because the flow of matter is turbulent, the crescent appears to wobble with time," said Maciek Wielgus, astronomer at Center for Astrophysics.

"Actually, we see quite a lot of variation there, and not all theoretical models of accretion allow for so much wobbling. What it means is that we can start ruling out some of the models based on the observed source dynamics”.

In short, they’re not quite sure why it wobbles yet, although Science Alert posited a number of theories, writing:

There could be any number of things causing the turbulence in the flow. The magnitude of the black hole's spin is one. The magnetic field structure in the accretion disc itself is another.

It could be driven by magnetorotational instability, or a misalignment in the black hole's spin and the accretion flow.

It could also have a relationship with the formation of relativistic jets. Those are powerful streams of plasma from the inside of the accretion ring that are accelerated around the outside of a black hole's event horizon and launched into space at relativistic speeds.

Yes… we agree…

Regardless, the most important thing to take away is this: even black hole shadows like to get dressed up and feel special sometimes.

Mood.

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