After decades of the unsolved mystery of the plasma jet, astronomers have finally solved it by taking the "heartbeat" of a black hole. Here's what they uncovered.
For starters, there are three different types of black holes. "The Unicorn" is the smallest kind and is created by the gravitational collapse of a single star. And the largest 'supermassive' holes are at least 4 times the size of the sun. In between these two sizes are numerous medium ones that have been detected. A black hole works by gathering material in its corona and eventually letting the material out of its jets. "It sounds logical, but there has been a debate for twenty years about whether the corona and the jet were simply the same thing. Now we see that they arise one after the other and that the jet follows from the corona," explained the lead researcher Mariano Méndez.
Around 36,000 light-years away from Earth lies a double system black hole. The GRS 1915 + 105 includes both a black hole and a normal star that circulates around one another. It is one of the largest known black holes, as it is nearly 12 times the sun's size. Méndez and his team have found how the sequences of these black holes work. "It was quite a challenge to demonstrate this sequential nature. We had to compare data of years with that of seconds, and of very high energies with very low ones," he said.
The sequence they found is like a heartbeat because it resembles the process of a human heart. The blood in our hearts cannot simultaneously be inside the atrium and the ventricles - it pumps it in and out of both. In a black hole, the material goes in the corona and then out the jets. Although they solved the mystery of the jets, there are still many more questions that remain unsolved. One is the possibility of a magnetic field giving the black hole more energy that is used by the corona to increase the temperatures. These hypotheses are being tested by Méndez as his research continues at the University of Groningen. Stay tuned for more updates.