Astronomers have spotted a black hole in the act of devouring a star – and spitting out deadly blasts of plasma at near light speed in random directions.
Researchers say that the black hole in V404 Cygni is behaving in a way never seen before on such short timescales.
The jets are rotating at extremely high speed with high-speed clouds of plasma shooting out of the black hole in different directions, possibly just minutes apart.
The black hole, 800 light years from Earth, is spitting out the jets due to its ‘accretion disk’, a rotating disk of matter around the black hole, six million miles wide.
Professor James Miller-Jones, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), said, ‘This is one of the most extraordinary black hole systems I’ve ever come across.
‘Like many black holes, it’s feeding on a nearby star, pulling gas away from the star and forming a disk of material that encircles the black hole and spirals towards it under gravity.
‘What’s different in V404 Cygni is that we think the disk of material and the black hole are misaligned. This appears to be causing the inner part of the disk to wobble like a spinning top and fire jets out in different directions as it changes orientation.#
‘The inner part of the accretion disk was precessing and effectively pulling the jets around with it.
‘You can think of it like the wobble of a spinning top as it slows down — only in this case, the wobble is caused by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.’