Astronomers Observe 'Lightning' Coming Out of a Black Hole

Monday, 10 November 2014 - 4:05PM
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Monday, 10 November 2014 - 4:05PM
Astronomers Observe 'Lightning' Coming Out of a Black Hole

For the first time, astronomers from an international research group have observed a lightning-like phenomena emitted from the center of a black hole. In the study, the authors hypothesize that the gamma ray phenomenon "is associated with pulsar-like particle acceleration by the electric field across a magnetospheric gap at the base of the radio jet."

 

Lightning 

[Credit: Asociación RUVID]

 

The phenomenon was observed in the Perseus constellation, in the center of IC310, which, like many galaxies, is believed to house a supermassive black hole. According to the researchers' description of the above image, "the contour lines and the brilliance show that the jet emerges from the black hole in the heart of IC 310."

 

Most significantly, the researchers observed that the brilliance of the black hole changes in five-minute intervals. The expanse of the event horizon of the black hole takes light 25 minutes to traverse, which means that the light must be coming from somewhere other than the event horizon.

 

"We believe that in the black hole's polar regions there are huge electric fields, which are able to accelerate fundamental particles at relativistic speeds, in a way that when they interact with others of lower energy, are able to produce highly energized gamma rays," said Eduardo Ros, co-author and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. "We can imagine this process as a fierce electrical thunderstorm."

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