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Strange hot gas whistles around Sagittarius A* at ‘mind-boggling speed’

Strange hot gas whistles around Sagittarius A at mind boggling speed

Illustration indicating the location and orbital motion of the hot spot

(ORDO NEWS) — In the strange gravitational environment at the center of our galaxy, astronomers have discovered a clump of gas orbiting our supermassive black hole at superspeed.

Its characteristics help astronomers explore the area immediately surrounding Sagittarius A* for answers to why the galactic center flickers and flares across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

Their results show that the black hole is surrounded by a clockwise rotating disk of material modulated by a powerful magnetic field.

And confirms what we already knew: the space around the black hole becomes wild.

“We think we’re seeing a hot bubble of gas whizzing around Sagittarius A* in an orbit similar in size to the planet Mercury, but completes a full circle in just 70 minutes,” says astrophysicist Maciek Wilgus of the Institute of Radio Astronomy. Max Planck in Germany.

“It takes intelligence. “The blowing speed is about 30 percent of the speed of light!”

Sgr A* came into the spotlight earlier this year when the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration unveiled an image of a black hole that has been building up over the years.

Telescopes around the world have worked together to observe the galactic center, which together show a doughnut-shaped ring of matter orbiting Sgr A*, heated to incredible temperatures.

One of the telescopes included in the collaboration is the Atacama Large Millimeter/submmillimeter Array (ALMA). ), an array of radio telescopes located in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

While studying the data exclusively from ALMA, in isolation from the rest of the collaboration, Vilgus and his colleagues noticed something interesting.

In April 2017, in the midst of data collection, the galactic center spat out an X-ray flare. It was pure coincidence that this happened when astronomers were collecting data for the Event Horizon Telescope project.

Previously, these long flares, observed at other wavelengths, were associated with clumps of hot gas orbiting very close to the Earth. towards a black hole and at very high speeds.

“What is really new and interesting is that such flares have so far only been clearly present in X-ray and infrared observations of Sagittarius A*,” Vilgus explains. “Here we see for the first time a very strong indication that orbital hotspots are also present in radio observations.”

These flares are thought to be the result of hot gas interacting with a magnetic field, and the team’s analysis of the ALMA data supports this notion.

The hotspot emits light that is highly polarized or curved and shows signs of synchrotron acceleration, both of which occur in the presence of a strong magnetic field. fields.

And the radio glow could be the result of the hotspot cooling down after the flash and becoming visible at longer wavelengths.

“We are finding strong evidence for the existence of a magnetic origin for these flares, and our observations give us insight into the geometry of the process,” says astrophysicist Monika Moskibrodska from Radboud University in the Netherlands.

“The new data is extremely useful for constructing a theoretical interpretation of these events.”

The team’s analysis of the light shows that the hotspot is embedded in a magnetically resistant disc. It’s a disk of material that spins and feeds into the black hole, but at a speed that is hindered by the magnetic field.

Through modeling that combined the data, the team was able to provide stronger constraints on the shape and movement of this magnetic field, as well as the formation and evolution of a hotspot within it.

But we don’t know much yet. It’s really hard to look at black holes, and there are some odd discrepancies compared to infrared observations of other flares.

The team hopes that simultaneous infrared and radio observations of future flares in hotspots will help iron in the future. from these twists.

“Hopefully one day it will be convenient for us to say that we ‘know’ what’s going on in Sagittarius A*,” Vilgus says.

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