A hot pink letter “H” is carved into the fiery gas surrounding a supermassive black hole lurking at the heart of a massive galaxy. The structure is a staggering 40,000 light-years tall, making it roughly half the width of our entire Milky Way galaxy.
But there is more than aesthetic value to this indisputably stunning image. Observations of M84, taken by NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Karl G. Jansky very large matrix (VLA) show that the jets can have an influence on the displacement of the gas away from the black hole and the interruption of its feeding, acting in opposition to the gravitational influence of the supermassive object. This has given astronomers the impression that some black holes are finicky, since the jets coming out of black holes like this one seem to restrict the amount of gas they can feed on from certain directions.
The gas in the image is captured by the gravitational influence of the supermassive black hole. While some of this material will fall to the surface of the black hole, which has a mass equivalent to about 1.5 billion times that of Sun, some will be ejected as particle jets. These jets can clean cavities in the hot gas surrounding the black hole.
These cavities can be seen in the Chandra image creating the “H” shape as a result of the orientation of the jets towards Land. The hot gas represented by the hot pink in the image extends some 100 light-years from the black hole, and the fact that it radiates at temperatures in the tens of millions of degrees means it is most prominent in X-rays, making it visible. for Chandra.
In addition to the X-ray data collected by Chandra, the image also features radio wavelength data collected by the VLA, a centimeter-wavelength radio astronomy observatory in the southwestern United States. The VLA data is shown in blue and shows the jets moving away from the black hole.
The astronomers estimated that each year the matter falling into the supermassive black hole from its north along the jet has a mass about 500 times that of Earth. While that sounds like a huge amount of matter, it’s only 25% of the mass of matter that is being fed into the black hole from directions the jet is not oriented, such as east and west.
That implies that the cavities created by the jets as they shoot out from the north and south of the black hole are kicking up material and thus slowing down the rate at which it falls toward the black hole.
To test this idea, the team behind this observation applied a black hole feeding model that assumes that all matter within a certain distance of a greedy cosmic titan falls to its spherical surface at the same rate. In this Bondi model, created by scientist Hermann Bondi and named after him, matter at the same distance from the black hole is equally affected by its gravity and should therefore accumulate at the same rate around a black hole. .
The astronomers found that the feeding of the supermassive black hole at the heart of M84 does not match Bondi’s model, as matter does not fall and accumulate equally in all directions, but instead forms the ‘H’ shape that see Chandra Images.
Of course, the titanic “H” structure seen in the Chandra image of M84 is not the result of a black hole trying to engage in cosmic skywriting. Rather, it is an example of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon that causes our brains to create coherent images or images from random data. Pareidolia can cause humans to see animals in clouds or, in some extreme cases, see faces of deities or celebrities on toast.
A famous astronomical example of pareidolia was the so-called “Face on Mars”. When NASA viking 1 the spacecraft was taking pictures of Mars in 1976 he detected what appeared to be the shadow of a human face, two miles long and located in a region called Cydonia.
The team’s research was published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available at ArVix paper deposit.