Stunning new images show how black holes produce tremendously bright jets millions of light-years long that can be seen across vast cosmic distances. The images were produced by a computer simulation and could help resolve an enduring mystery about how the jets form, the researchers behind the images said.
Despite their moniker, black holes aren’t always black. As a black hole consumes an object, gas and dust spins around the maw of the gravitational behemoth, and friction can heat the material on the edges to searing temperatures. This violent process creates lighthouse-like beams of charged particles that travel outward at near light speed, emitting radiation that can shine brighter than an entire galaxy.
“They are like laser beams piercing the universe and allowing us to see black holes whose emission would otherwise be too dim to be detectable,” Alexander Tchekhovskoy, a computational astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, told Live Science.