Scientists say they have moved one step closer to understanding the processes occurring in supermassive black holes. Black holes are thought to be the feature at the rotational centre of most galaxies.
For the first time astronomers have observed a blazer in action — one of the most energetic objects in the universe that is fuelled by supermassive black holes.
Periodically these black holes emit jets of high-energy plasma at almost the speed of light.
The astronomers, based at Boston University and the University of Michigan (U-M), discovered that the jets were propelled by magnetic fields that were twisted by the gravity of the black hole and the materials falling into it.
The sighting was made by a variety of telescopes aimed at the blazar BL Lacertae, about 950 million light-years away from Earth.
Optical, X-ray and radio telescopes monitored the galaxy at different electromagnetic wavelengths periodically for several years.
“What we’ve observed is the mechanism by which the acceleration of relativistic particles in the emanating jets occurs,” said Hugh Aller, a professor in the U-M Department of Astronomy.
“Knowing that mechanism enhances our understanding of the physics that goes into the acceleration process.”
Margo Aller, a research scientist and lecturer in the U-M Department of Astronomy, added: “This is the first observational evidence that really fits with the picture that the theoreticians have had.
“The reason we have this evidence is a very fine sampling of a large number of instruments.”
The discovery is published in the journal Nature.