Jets of fast-moving material shot from the area surrounding a black hole are wobbling so fast that their change in direction can be seen in periods as short as minutes, and astronomers say it’s happening because the rotating black hole’s powerful gravitational pull is dragging nearby space itself along with it.
“We’ve never seen this effect happening on such short timescales,” says James Miller-Jones, of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), who led a team using the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).
The team studied V404 Cygni, a black hole nine times more massive than the Sun, nearly 8,000 light-years from Earth. The black hole is drawing in material from a companion star with a mass about 70 percent that of the Sun. As the material streams toward the black hole, it forms a rotating disk, called an accretion disk, surrounding the black hole.
In such systems, the disk becomes denser and hotter with decreasing distance from the black hole. Either the innermost portion of the disk or the black hole itself launches jets of material outward away from the disk, also known as relativistic jets. The astronomers said V404 ...