Chinese astronomers have discovered a new explanation for how black holes form and project jets of matter, marking one of the most significant findings in the field this year.
The formation of relativistic jets - streams of matter emitted nearing the speed of light - and accretion - the accumulation of cosmic dust particles near a black hole - remain one of the biggest mysteries of astrophysics.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) used the Great Canary Telescope in Spain and the Keck Observatory in the United States to monitor a black hole in the M81 galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away from earth.
They unexpectedly discovered the black hole was emitting ultraluminous supersoft X-rays at velocities around 17 percent the speed of light.
"Most of astronomers didn't expect black holes to produce supersoft X-ray spectra by gobbling matter," said Liu Jifeng, a professor at CAS and a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories under CAS, who led the research team.
"And they believed relativistic jets would only be produced by sources with soft, or low-energy, X-ray spectra or hard, high-energy, X-ray spectra."
"The new findings have provided a new perspective for astronomers to look into black hole accretion and the formation of jets," Liu said.
The teams research was recently published in top science journal Nature.
In recent years, Chinese astronomers have published several major findings in the world's top science journals, showcasing China's progress and great potential in the study and research of astronomy, said Yan Jun, the head of the National Astronomical Observatories. (Xinhua)
52 Sanlihe Rd., Beijing,