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Black hole fires a high energy ‘bullet’ according to astronomers

Astronomers, working with NASA’s Rossi X Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope have recorded a black hole ejecting a highly energetic knot of gas, likened to a ‘bullet’, into space.

Artist depiction of the black hole firing a high energy cloud of gas. (Credit: NASA)

Gregory Sivakoff, astronomer said in a press release “Like a referee at a sports game, we essentially rewound the footage on the bullets’ progress, pinpointing when they were launched, With the unique capabilities of RXTE and the VLBA, we can associate their ejection with changes that likely signaled the start of the process.”

Alex Knapp at Forbes adds “Just outside of the event horizon of the black hole – the point where nothing can escape – stellar matter from the neighboring star comes together in a swirling disk, drawn by the gravitation of the black hole. The resulting temperature and pressure gets the gas up to tens of millions of degrees, and various forces acting within the gas force some of it outwards. Usually, there’s just a steady stream of outflowing energetic gas, but occasionally, the large “bullets” are formed.

The bullets themselves are incredible. These massive blobs of energy burst from opposite sides of the black hole at speeds approaching about a quarter of the speed of light. That’s an enormous output of energy.”

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