The orange speckles in a new image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory add another dimension to the first-ever image of a black hole. This supplemental picture offers a zoomed-out perspective of the same tremendously dense structure of the now-viral image, helping scientists learn more about what's happening in the black hole's neighborhood.
The supermassive black hole starring in both pictures is located in the elliptical galaxy Messier 87. It's a behemoth; this black hole boasts a mass several billion times greater than that of Earth's sun.
To offer a little more perspective about this structure and the powerful effect it has on the matter around it, scientists collaborating with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) captured a different view of this same target. They did so in tandem with EHT observations made in April 2017, according to a statement published the same day as the black hole picture.
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To capture the incredible image of a supermassive black hole's shadow, the EHT project gathered data from a global array of radio antennas. On Wednesday (April 10), the incredible feat of finally imaging this enigmatic structure astonished scientists and the public alike.
But another instrument in space, Chandra, has been gazing at the black hole's home galaxy over the last two decades, collecting data in a different wavelength: X-rays. Astronomers had Chandra stare at Messier 87 (M87) for about 30,000 seconds, or roughly 8.3 hours, as the EHT dish network took its observations from the ground.
The four ultrasensitive mirrors that Chandra carries in its orbit around Earth observed the X-ray radiation of multimillion-degree gas shrouding M87.
These X-rays came from the high-energy particles the black hole was flinging into space. The material resulted in a jet shape which extends over 1,000 light years from the center of M87, Chandra representatives said in the statement. Viewers can observe the jet more clearly in the enlarged image inset.
Black holes are superdense structures with tremendous gravitational pull, and past a black hole's threshold, the event horizon, even light cannot escape.
Every galaxy is thought to host a supermassive black hole, like this one within M87, at its center.
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