HomeAstronomyX-ray view shows how supermassive black holes speed up particles

X-ray view shows how supermassive black holes speed up particles

Peering deep into the heart of a blazar, astronomers have learned how particles are being accelerated to close to the speed of light, to race away in a jet emanating from near the blazar’s monstrous supermassive black hole.

Blazars are quasars seen head-on; a quasar is an extremely active galactic nucleus (AGN), which is powered by a black hole accreting vast amounts of matter. The matter circles around the black hole in an accretion disk, where conditions are so extreme that the disk shines at millions of degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius. Tightly entwined magnetic fields wrapped up in the disk are able to funnel away some of the material in tightly collimated jets shooting away from the center of the accretion disk in either direction. The charged particles in these jets spiral around the magnetic field lines, emitting something called synchrotron radiation. It’s this radiation that produces most of the light that we see shining from quasars and from blazars, in which one of the jets points toward Earth.



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