The Event Horizon Telescope (ETH) has released a fascinating new image of an astrophysical jet of matters spewing out of a black hole in the Centaurus A galaxy.
The image shows a jet with a dark center flanked by two parallel stripes with bright, glowing edges. Astronomers think that the jet may have that bright edge because its outer regions are rubbing against the surrounding gas and dust, thus causing them to glow.
But what drives the powerful jets? Science Magazine explains two theories:
One theory holds that an accretion disk, the swirling whirlpool of matter spiraling into the black hole, generates a magnetic field that funnels some of the matter into a jet. Others argue this magnetic field must tap into the rotational energy of the black hole itself to be able to achieve such colossal power.
The new observations of Centaurus A don’t resolve that question, but they hold clues. Janssen says the images show that the remarkably parallel edges of the jet narrow into a cone close to the black hole. The base of that cone remains wide, [Michael Janssen of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy] says, which might suggest it is coming from the accretion disk. “It remains to be seen,” he says.