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Black hole jets: illuminating queries with galactic “lightsabers”.

Newswise — The one thing everyone knows about black holes is that absolutely everything near them gets sucked into them.

Almost everything, it turns out.

“Even though black holes are defined as objects from which nothing can escape, one of the astonishing predictions of Einstein’s theory of relativity is that black holes can actually lose energy,” explains the astrophysicist. Eliot QuataertPrinceton’s Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy, Foundation Class of 1897. “They can spin, and just as a top slows down over time and loses that energy as it spins, a spinning black hole can also lose energy. energy in its environment.”

Scientists have largely accepted this model since the 1970s. They knew that magnetic fields likely extracted energy from rotating black holes – but they just didn’t know how.

A team of Princeton astrophysicists has now conclusively determined that the energy near the event horizon of the M87* black hole is flowing outward, not inward. (M87 is the name of the galaxy, Messier 87, so the black hole at its center is designated M87*.) The researchers also created a way to test the prediction that black holes lose rotational energy, a declared Quataert, and to establish this prediction. this energy which produces “the incredibly powerful flows that we see and which we call jets”.

These energy jets “are essentially like million-light-year Jedi lightsabers,” said Alexandru Lupsasca, a former Princeton postdoctoral fellow, and they can extend 10 times longer than the Milky Way.

THE results of their work appear in the current issue of The Astrophysics Journal. Andrew Chael, a research associate in astrophysics, is the first author of the paper. He and co-author George Wong are both members of the Telescope Event Horizon team and played an essential role in developing the models used to interpret black holes. Chael, Wong, Lupsasca and Quataert are all theorists affiliated with the Princeton Gravitational Initiative.

The team credited Chael with the essential idea at the heart of the new paper: the direction in which magnetic field lines spiral reveals the direction of energy flow. From there, “the rest kind of fell into place,” Quataert said.

“If you took the Earth, turned it all into TNT and exploded it 1,000 times a second for millions and millions of years, that’s how much energy we’d extract from M87,” said Wongresearch associate at the Princeton Gravity Initiative and member from the Institute for Advanced Study.

Scientists have known for decades that when a black hole begins to spin, it pulls the fabric of space-time with it. The magnetic field lines that pass through the black hole are entrained, which slows the rotation, leading to the release of energy.

“Our new accurate prediction is that every time you look at an astrophysical black hole, if it has magnetic field lines attached to it, there will be energy transfer – really insane amounts of energy transfer,” Lupsasca said , a former research associate at Princeton who is now an assistant professor of physics and mathematics at Vanderbilt University and won the prize New Horizons Prize in Physics 2024 from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation for his research on black holes.

As the energy flow near M87*’s event horizon flows outward, the team said the energy flow could theoretically flow inward into a different black hole. They are confident in their connection between energy flow and the direction of magnetic field lines, and their prediction that the energy flow comes from the black hole will be tested with the launch of the still theoretical project.”The next generation» Event Horizon Telescope.

For the past year and a half, black hole researchers around the world have been proposing specifications for the future instrument, Wong said. “Newspapers like ours can play a crucial role in determining what we need. I think it’s an incredibly exciting time.

The four researchers emphasized in their paper that they had not conclusively demonstrated that the black hole’s rotation “actually powers the extragalactic jet,” although the evidence certainly leans in that direction. Even though the energy levels shown by their model are proportional to the jets’ needs, they cannot rule out the possibility that the jet could be propelled by a rotating plasma outside the black hole. “I think it’s extremely likely that the black hole is propelling the jet, but we can’t prove it,” Lupsasca said. “Again.”

A signature of electromagnetic energy extraction in images of polarized black holes”, by Andrew Chael, Alexandru Lupsasca, George N. Wong and Eliot Quataert appears in the current issue of The Astrophysical Journal (DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/acf92d). The research was supported by the Princeton Gravity Initiative, the Taplin Fellowship, the National Science Foundation (grant 2307888), and a Simons Foundation Investigator Award.

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