Radio jets from the Milky Way's black hole can point right to Earth


We have spent decades trying to decode our supermassive black holes, but important clues could be in front of us all along.

By using 13 radio telescopes, astronomers from the Max Planck Institute can use Sagittarius A * (pronounced A-star), an area that holds the Milky Way's supermassive black holes. And once they cleared the light noise scattered around them, they found that strong radio emissions that exploded from black holes only came from small areas, which could be directed right to Earth. This research was published on Monday Astrophysics Journal and, if confirmed, can explain Sgr A * and his radio jet.

Black Hole Explosion

Supermassive black holes are quite common in our universe, sitting in the heart of most large galaxies. Their strong gravitational field allows them to suck and eliminate objects that are too close to them. And while they absorb most of this sky matter, a small portion escapes from a black hole and explodes back into space. This emission, known as a jet, emits radio waves and moves almost at the speed of light.

And even though we can detect some Sgr A * radio emissions from Earth, learning it is easier said than done. There is a hot gas cloud between Earth and Sgr A *. And this interstellar gas spreads jet light, making it difficult to clearly determine radio waves from black holes.


But recently, a research team was able to isolate these radio emissions using very long baseline interferometry – a technique that combines several telescopes to make massive, very powerful. Using 13 radio telescopes from around the world, they eliminate the effects of hot gas to get sharper images than jet emissions compared to before.

They found that it came from a symmetrical source, which was in line with the "jet" theory, because they exploded from the black hole in the opposite direction. They also found that emissions were far narrower than they thought. So narrow, in fact, it comes to us only from one million degrees – showing that it almost leads directly to Earth.

Luckily from the draw, this means that we might have a direct view of one of the defining characteristics of our black hole. And don't worry about jets that really blow us up, because as far as we know, being in the line of sight doesn't put us in danger. If anything, it could allow us to study jets in perfect detail and explain the mysterious nature of Sgr A *.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story erroneously states why light from Sagittarius A * spread before reaching Earth. It is spread by interstellar gas.


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