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UFO at the Center of Black Holes


Imge: ESA/AOES Medialab

Astronomers have just discovered UFOs - but don't reach for your tinfoil hat just yet, Neatoramanauts! They're talking about Ultra-fast Outflow found at the center of black holes, which, if you think about it, is actually far stranger than your everyday Unidentified Flying Object:

Black holes are surrounded by a million degree X-ray emitting disk of gas. This gas is sucked into the black hole and powers it. Some of the disk material, however, escapes and is redirected outwards as a jet of energetic particles.

These jets do not explain the link between black holes and bulges, though. So astronomers went looking for a new kind of black hole outflow that was somewhere between these particle jets, which travel at half the speed of light, and known outflows that travel much slower.

Now, Francesco Tombesi and his colleagues have found that new type of outflow. It is called “ultra-fast” because it is faster than already-known outflows, but slower than jets. UFOs could explain the link between black hole and bulge size. They contain more mass and have a wider opening angle than jets do, so should interact more with the stuff between stars in the galaxy.

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