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Black hole's ejections are tracked by new telescope observations

20 March 2020

A black hole, ejecting material close to the speed of light, has been successfully tracked after it went into outburst in the summer of 2018.

Observations of the black hole, known as MAXI J1820+070, have given researchers a deeper understanding into how black holes feed energy into their environment. The research was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Co-lead of the project, Rob Fender said:

"We've been studying these kind of jets for over 20 years and never have we tracked them so beautifully over such a large distance.”

The extreme distances from black hole and the final angular separation is among the largest seen from such systems. Its ejections are moving so fast that they appear to be moving faster than the speed of light. This phenomenon known as apparent superluminal motion.

The research team based at The University of Oxford used the radio telescope array e-MERLIN, alongside the VLA and MeerKAT telescopes based in the US and South Africa, to track the ejecting material over a period of months.

Dr Rob Beswick, Head of e-MERLIN science operations at Jodrell Bank stated:

“This work shows the power of world-class instruments such as e-MERLIN, MeerKAT and the VLA working in tandem.

“e-MERLIN’s unique combination of resolution, sensitivity and rapid response made it the perfect instrument for this sort of study”.

e-MERLIN is an array of seven radio telescopes spanning 217 km across the UK connected by a superfast optical fibre network to its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory. It is the UK's facility for high resolution radio astronomy observations, operated by The University of Manchester for the STFC.

The newly published research paper, An extremely powerful long-lived superluminal ejection from the black hole MAXI J1820+070 by J. S. Bright, R. P. Fender, R. A. M. J. Wijers is now available in Nature Astronomy.

Last updated: 26 March 2020

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