facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Astronomers make discoveries in jets streaming from black holes

Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:37 PM   |   Comments

PERTH, Australia, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Astronomers may have answered a longstanding question about enigmatic jets of matter emitted by black holes, a British scientific journal reports.

An international team's research on the narrow beams of matter ejected at high speeds from the vicinity of black holes at the center of many galaxies has been published in the journal Nature.

"Although they have been observed for decades, we're still not sure what they are made of, or what powers them," lead study author Maria Diaz Trigo of the European Southern Observatory said.

The team studied the radio waves and X-rays emitted by a small black hole a few times the mass of the Sun, detecting lines appearing in the X-ray spectrum, the telltale signature of ordinary atoms.

"Intriguingly, we found the lines were not where they should be, but rather were shifted significantly," said James Miller Jones, who led the radio observations at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Australia.

"We've known for a long time that jets contain electrons, but haven't got an overall negative charge, so there must be something positively charged in them too," he said.

"Until now it wasn't clear whether the positive charge came from positrons, the antimatter 'opposite' of electrons, or positively charged atoms. Since our results found nickel and iron in these jets, we now know ordinary matter must be providing the positive charge."

Positively charged atoms are much heavier than the positrons astronomers had thought might make up the jets, proving the jets can carry away far more energy from the black hole than previously confirmed, the researchers said.

Topics: James Miller
© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth Massive sunspot sending violent flares toward Earth
2
Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space Google exec breaks skydive record with dive from near-space
3
Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time Powerful new microscope sees cell division in real time
4
Astronomers discover worst-smelling comet in space Astronomers discover worst-smelling comet in space
5
Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes Stone tools reveal Ice Age settlement in the Andes
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback