Astronomers at Western Sydney University have discovered one of the largest black hole Airplanes in the sky.
Stretching over a million light-years from start to finish, the jet extends away from the black hole with tremendous energy, and at nearly the speed of light. But in the vast expanses of intergalactic space, it does not always get its own way.
Take a closer look
Just 93 million light-years away, galaxy NGC2663 is in our neighborhood, cosmically speaking. If our galaxy were a house, NGC2663 would be a suburb or two.
Looking at the light of its star with an ordinary telescope, we see the familiar elliptical shape of a “typical” elliptical galaxy, with about ten times the stars of our Milky Way.
Typically until we observed NGC2663 with CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometer Array (ASKAP) In Western Australia – a network of 36 linked radio dishes that make up one super telescope.
Radio waves reveal a jet of matter, ejected by a central black hole from the galaxy. This stream of high-energy material is about 50 times larger than the galaxy: if our eyes could see it in the night sky, it would be larger than the moon.
While astronomers found Such planes beforethe sheer size (across more than a million light-years) and the relative proximity of NGC2663 make these aircraft some of the largest known in the sky.
So what did we see, when ASKAP’s precision and power got a “close-up” (astronomically speaking!) view of an extragalactic plane?
This research is led by PhD student Filipbor Filovic of Western Sydney University and has been accepted for publication in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Available here in prepress). The Evolutionary Map of the Universe (EMU) survey sees evidence of intergalactic matter receding on either side of the plane.
This process is similar to the effect observed in jet engines. When the exhaust plume explodes into the atmosphere, it is pushed from the sides by the ambient pressure. This causes the plane to expand and contract as it moves.
As the image below shows, we see regular bright spots in the plane, known as “shock diamonds” because of their shape. When the flux deflates, it lights up more brightly.
The biggest one so far
In addition to jet engines, traumatic diamonds have been seen in smaller, galactic-sized planes. We’ve seen jets hitting thick clouds of gas, lighting them up during the hole. But the narrowing of the jets from the sides has a more subtle effect, making them difficult to notice.
However, until NGC2663, we did not see this effect on such massive scales.
This tells us that there is enough material in the intergalactic space around NGC2663 to squeeze the sides of the plane. In turn, the jet heats up and puts pressure on the material.
This is a feedback loop: intergalactic matter feeds the galaxy, the galaxy makes the black hole, the black hole releases the jet, the jet slows the galaxies’ supply of intergalactic matter.
These jets affect how gas is formed in galaxies as the universe develops. It is interesting to see such a direct illustration of this interaction.
EMU survey, which is also responsible for identifying a new type of mysterious astronomical object called “strange radio circuitClear the sky. This wonderful radio jet will be joining soon Many discoveries.
As we do this, we will build a better understanding of how black holes The formation of galaxies around them closely.
luke barnesphysics reader, Western Sydney University; Miroslav FilipovicMr, Western Sydney University; Ray NorrisProfessor, College of Science, Western Sydney UniversityAnd the Phillip FilovicPhD candidate, Western Sydney University