Astronomers working with the European Southern Observatory have managed to capture the first direct image of a black hole spewing out a jet of energy. In a post published in late April, the ESO detailed the process of capturing the photo.
According to the news release, the observations were originally captured in 2018 using data from three telescopes — Global Millimetre VLBI Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the Greenland Telescope (GLT).
We’ve known that black holes expel jets of energy for a while now, but we’ve never managed to capture a direct image of one. The ESO says that this new image will allow astronomers to better understand how black holes launch these massive, energetic jets out into space.
More important, this image shows how the energy jet’s base connects to the material that is swirling around the supermassive hole. The black hole imaged in the observations is the supermassive black hole found at the center of Messier 87 (M87).
This was the first black hole to be directly imaged by astronomers using Event Horizon Telescope four years earlier. By looking further at the black hole, though, astronomers were able to capture the jet rushing from it, too.
This, however, is no small achievement. As we reflect on our progress in observing black holes, it is thrilling to see a picture of the jet that is being emitted from one. Hopefully, this will lead us to more detailed images in future.
For now, hopefully astronomers can learn something from the observations made by these three telescopes, especially as NASA and other space agencies continue to work on new telescopes to help study our universe more deeply than ever before.
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