Black Hole Plasma Jet Spotted Tracing Corkscrew Path [News]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - 13:54 in Astronomy & Space

A new high-resolution study of the hot, charged gas spouting from an enormous black hole provides the most direct evidence yet that such plasma jets are powered by corkscrew-shaped magnetic fields. Researchers say the finding helps clarify the inner workings of blazars, extremely energetic galaxies that flare up unpredictably, driven by central black holes millions of times more massive than the sun.Researchers believe that large galaxies such as the Milky Way contain supermassive black holes in their cores that drag dust and gas toward them in a disk and fling it back out via jets of ionized gas or plasma moving at up to 99.9 percent of the speed of light. If that jet points toward Earth, researchers call it a blazar, and it is "one of the most impressive high-energy natural laboratories" in the universe, says astronomer Alan Marscher of Boston University's Institute for Astrophysical Research. [More]

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