Black hole jets: questions illuminated by galactic ‘light sabers’.

Newswise – One thing everyone knows about black holes is that absolutely everything nearby gets sucked into them.

almost Everything, it turns out.

“Although black holes are interpreted as objects from which there is no escape, one of the surprising predictions of Einstein's theory of relativity is that black holes can actually lose energy,” says the astrophysicist. Eliot QuatertPrinceton's Charles A. A young professor of astronomy in the class of 1897. “They can spin, and just as a spinning top slows down over time and loses that energy as it spins, a spinning black hole can also lose energy to its surroundings.”

Scientists have widely accepted this model since the 1970s. They knew that magnetic fields were probably powered by spinning black holes—they just didn't know how.

A team of Princeton astrophysicists has now finally determined that the energy near the event horizon of the black hole M87* is flowing outward, not inward. (M87 is the name of the galaxy, Messier 87, so the black hole at its center is named M87*.) The researchers also devised a way to test that black holes lose their rotational energy, Quatert said, and found it. It's this energy that produces the “incredibly powerful flow that we see that we call jets.”

These energy-emitting jets are “basically like Jedi lightsabers that are millions of light-years long,” said former Princeton postdoc Alexandru Lupsaska, and they can extend up to 10 times the length of the Milky Way galaxy.

The results Their work appears in the current issue Astrophysical Journal. Andrew Chael, a research associate in astrophysics, is the first author of the paper. He and co-author George Wong are both members Event Horizon Telescope The team and played a critical role in developing the models used to interpret black holes. Chael, Wong, Lupsasca and Quataert are all related theorists Princeton Gravity Initiative.

The team credited Chael with a vital insight in the new paper: that the direction in which magnetic field lines spiral reveals the direction of energy flow. From there, “the rest kind of fell into place,” Quatert said.

“If you took the Earth, turned it into TNT, and blew it up 1,000 times a second for millions and millions of years, that's the amount of energy we get from M87,” he said. WongAssociate Researcher of the Princeton Gravity Initiative and A member of the Institute of Qualification Raising.

Scientists have known for decades that as a black hole begins to rotate, it drags the fabric of spacetime around itself. The magnetic field lines flowing through the black hole are pulled and this slows the rotation, causing energy to be released.

“Our new, stark prediction is that when you look at an astrophysical black hole, if it has magnetic field lines attached to it, there will be energy transfer—a really crazy amount of energy transfer,” said Lupsaska, a former associate research scientist. Princeton, who is now an assistant professor of physics and mathematics at Vanderbilt University and who won 2024 New Horizons Physics Prize from the Breakthrough Prize Foundation for black hole research.

Although the energy stream near M87*'s event horizon flows outward, the team said the energy stream could theoretically flow inward to another black hole. They are convinced of the connection between the flow of energy and the direction of the magnetic field lines, and their prediction that the flow of energy comes from a black hole is still theoretical.”The next generation“Event Horizon Telescope.

For the past year and a half, black hole researchers around the world have been proposing specifications for the future instrument, Wong said. “Papers like ours can play a crucial role in defining what we need.” I think it's an incredibly exciting time.”

The four researchers emphasized in their paper that they have not conclusively shown that the rotation of the black hole “actually powers the extragalactic jet,” although the evidence certainly leans in that direction. Although the energy levels their model shows are consistent with what is needed for jets, they could not rule out the possibility that the jet is powered by rotating plasma outside the black hole. “I think it's very likely that the black hole powers the plane, but we can't prove it,” Lupsaska said. “yet.”

Signature of electromagnetic energy extraction in polarized black hole imagesAndrew Shael, Alexandru Lupsaska, George N. by Wong and Elliot Coutaert is published in the current issue of The Astrophysical Journal (DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/acf92d). Research was supported by the Princeton Gravity Initiative, a Taplin Fellowship, the National Science Foundation (grant 2307888), and a Simons Foundation Investigator Award.