Astronomers capture black hole 'dragging spacetime'

Weird Black Hole Is Shooting Out Wobbly Jets Because It's Dragging Spacetime

"Since the jets originate from either the inner disk or the black hole, this changes the jet orientation, producing the wobbling observed with the VLBA".

Often, as the vast gravity of a black hole pulls gas from a nearby star, some of that material is shot back into space at almost the speed of light.

The V404 Cygni black hole has been observed exhibiting one the effects of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Like a black hole isn't mysterious enough, researchers have now found one emitting rapidly-swinging jets.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The extraordinary event made the peculiar black hole looked like a spinning top as it warps space nearby. As the material from the star streams toward V404 Cygni, it creates a rotating accretion disk around the black hole. The conclusion: this black hole is spinning a little differently than the rest.

So there are all kinds of space and time distortions near black holes, where the gravity can be very intense. In V404 Cygni, the jet direction was changing on timescales of hours, or even minutes.

The team used the Very Long Baseline Array, which has 10 dishes across the United States.

The material in the jets is blasted out from the black hole's rotating accretion disk.

"You can think of it like the wobble of a spinning top as it slows down - only in this case, the wobble is caused by Einstein's theory of general relativity".

That allowed astronomers to identify that that mysterious black hole ejects high-speed clouds of plasma, some powerful jets, as it's pulling spacetime. The binary star system consists of a normal star in orbit with a black hole.

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Astronomers all over the world trained their telescopes on this outburst, providing data right across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to X-rays.

The group of astronomers, which studied the black hole's jet activity, published their findings in the journal Nature on April 29. To get better images, they captured over 100 images with 70-second exposures and merged those images to create an animation. According to the study, V404 Cygni's accretion disk is 10 million kilometres wide, and the inner few thousand kilometres was puffed up and wobbling during the bright outburst.

In V404 Cygni, the black hole's spin axis is misaligned from the plane of its orbit with the companion star.

Co-author Alex Tetarenko - a recent PhD graduate from the University of Alberta and now an East Asian Observatory Fellow working in Hawaii - said the speed the jets were changing direction meant the scientists had to use a very different approach to most radio observations. But something - probably a kick from the supernova that first formed V404 Cygni - pushed the black hole and the disk out of alignment.

Study co-author Dr Gemma Anderson, who is also based at ICRAR's Curtin University node, said the wobble of the inner accretion disk could happen in other extreme events in the Universe too.

This allowed us to make detailed images of the jets, zooming in to a region roughly the same size as our Solar System.

The photos are artists' impressions, of course.

Black holes are odd objects in the universe that get their name from the fact that nothing can escape their gravity, not even light.

Since the V404 Cygni black hole didn't follow the same rules as conventional blackholes, the ICRAR team has to combine 103 images of the black hole, each around 70 seconds long, in order to observe the phenomenon.

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