a look! Astronomers have discovered a hot ball of plasma orbiting the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole

The supermassive black hole lurks in the middle Milky Way Familiar with powerful eruptions, new evidence shows it’s circled by a strange dot flying through space at 30 percent the speed of light.

Thanks to Major event horizon telescope (EHT), astronomers can dig deeper into 4 million solar masses Black hole In the heart of our galaxy The arc is called A* (Sgr A*). It was the last look at this irresistible scientific target Posted Thursday in the magazine Astronomy and astrophysicsIt revealed a fast-flying hotspot as well as new information about the mysterious flares spewing out around the black hole. These phenomena help scientists learn more about the behind-the-scenes chaos of a black hole, and they’re fascinating in their own right, too.

Here’s some stuff to think about: The gas disk surrounding the symbol A* appears in the sky a size similar to how an orange would appear on the moon as seen from Earth. Now imagine a grapefruit twice as large as that orange, and you’ll get the approximate orbital size of this bubble. That’s just the obvious size. Models indicate that the bubble has an orbital radius similar to the radius of Mercury around the Sun. To put the point’s velocity into perspective, imagine Mercury Take one trip around the sun in an amazing 70 minutes instead A typical 3-month trip.

what they found – “What comes first—a bubble or a glow—could be some kind of chicken or egg question,” Maciek WielgusSays an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany who led the new work inverse. Wielgus was part of the EHT team that produced the magic First image of Sgr A* May 2022.

“Our results seem to indicate that it is the glow that comes first, and through this strong release of magnetic field energy into the plasma, it creates hotspots or bubbles,” he adds. Plasma is a state of matter produced when strong forces heat up matter.

Solar flares, such as those that appear now often As the sun rises In the most active part of the 11-year cycle, they resemble eruptions produced by a supermassive black hole. “The mechanism by which we believe [black hole] What happens to the flare is magnetic reconnection,” Wilgus says. “Essentially, it’s similar to the origin of flares on the surface of the Sun.”

“However, there is a huge difference in the geometry, the properties of the plasma, and the overall strength involved,” he adds. However, just because Sgr A* outperforms the Sun, it does not mean that it is a giant among its peers.

“While Sgr A* is as massive as about 4 million suns, it only emits with a power of about 100 suns, which is actually not very impressive for a supermassive black hole!” Wilgus says.

The weakening of Sgr A* by black hole standards may be a sigh of relief. It is, after all, in the cosmic backyard. It’s 27,000 light-years away, but it’s still a stone’s throw away from the standards of the universe.

This meek supermassive black hole is capable of volatile activity. The new study helps explain why these flares and bubbles occur.

why does it matter – Co-author Monica Mościbrodzkawhich is based at Radboud University in the Netherlands, says on a Thursday Advertising From the European Southern Observatory (ESO) they now have “strong evidence” that these flares originate from magnetic interactions when superheated gas circulates near Sgr A*.

Their explanation for these flares and hotspots is that when a black hole’s magnetic field line reconnects (as they do on the surface of the Sun), the event releases a lot of energy very quickly. This collides with some of the gas around the black hole, heating it up, forming what Wilgus describes as a “plasma bubble of low density and very high temperature.”

Wide field of visible light view of the center of the Milky Way. ESO and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgments: Davide De Martin and S.Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard)

What did they do – The bubble is a wonderful find from a piece of external data.

The new study is based on observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/ Sub-millimeter Array (ALMA), whose name comes from the Chilean desert where it was built. ESO, which has published an announcement of the new work, operates this site. Wielgus says ALMA saw Sgr A* for the EHT on April 6 and 7, 2017, and then a few days later ALMA observed the black hole again. But this data from April 11 has not been combined into The first picture of arc A*.

“We avoided using the third day with ALMA [April 11] As for the EHT results, precisely because we knew there was an X-ray flare that day, and we saw some indications of increased source diversity, Wilgus says. “So it probably isn’t great for recreating a static average image.”

That’s what EHT Unveiled May 12, 2022. The team produced a master image by collecting an average of thousands of images. It keeps the common features, and blocks the ones that don’t show up often.

What’s Next – Think of the gorgeous May 2022 photo as a portrait, which Wilgus says “showed us Sgr A* on a silent, quiet day.” The new action is exciting because it is a lifelike screenshot of an action-packed scene. With this “glimpse into the combustion of Sgr A*” comes the opportunity to find a better model of a supermassive black hole.

X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in space and infrared data from gravity tool with the extra large telescope interferometer (VLTI) in Chile had previously detected the flames. But now that new radio observations from the latest study are available, they provide a new layer for scientists to explore.

Hopefully, all of these things add up to a solid understanding of the core of the Milky Way that was previously impossible to obtain.