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Last observed in 2015, the black hole is spewing out ‘wobbly’ plasma jets that move so fast they change orientation within minutes.

Some 8,000 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation (“The Swan”), a small black hole weighing just nine times the mass of Earth’s sun is gobbling up a sun-like star. The black hole and its stellar victim are locked together in what astronomers call a binary system and orbit each other once every 6.5 days – with spectacular effects, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is reporting.

While the black hole may be relatively tiny as far as these celestial objects go – for instance, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*, is 4 million times more massive than the sun, per a previous report from The Inquisitr – it does pack a pretty mean punch. Dubbed V404 Cygni, the black hole is continuously siphoning material from its stellar companion, slowly consuming the unfortunate star.

As it often happens in this type of binary system in which a star has the misfortune of sharing its lodgings with a black hole, V404 Cygni is slowly eating away at its neighbor, gradually draining the star of gas and dust. Since the stellar gas and debris is too vast to be devoured all at once, the material swirls around the black hole in a so-called accretion disk – on which V404 Cygni continuously feasts, shooting out X-rays and plumes of hot gas, or plasma, in the process.

This is the common fate that befalls most stars wandering too close to a black hole after getting sucked in by its strong gravity. And, while it’s not unusual for a black hole to spew out an intense amount of radiation and relativistic jets as it munches on a star, as previously covered by The Inquisitr, the emissions coming from V404 Cygni are truly special.

This particular black hole made headlines in 2015, when astronomers observed a massive outburst coming from V404 Cygni. Picked up by NASA’s Swift satellite, the outburst lasted for two weeks and was the first signal of activity detected from the slumbering object in nearly three decades, as reported by NASA at the time.

The event prompted a group of scientists to investigate the black hole and study its emissions. Led by James Miller-Jones, a researcher with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the team has just published a study in the journal Nature detailing the peculiar nature of the plasma jets being released by V404 Cygni.

According to their findings, the jets of hot gas spewing out of the black hole are unlike anything science has ever encountered before. While astronomers have had the chance to study relativistic jets emitted by black holes in the past – beams of ionized particles traveling close to the speed of light – the streams of particles ejected by V404 Cygni are “wildly wobbling,” notes Space.

In fact, the plasma jets coming from the black hole are moving so fast that they rapidly change orientation in a matter of minutes, tugging at the space around them in the process. Based on their observations, the scientists believe that “this unusually rapid motion could be happening because the black hole’s strong gravity is warping space around it,” states the media outlet.

After monitoring V404 Cygni with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a massive network of 10 radio telescopes set up all around the world, the team discovered that the plasma jets coming from the black hole “were changing so fast that, in a four-hour image, we saw just a blur,” explained study co-author Alexandra Tetarenko, an East Asian Observatory fellow in Hawaii.

“We’ve never seen this effect happening on such short time scales,” Miller-Jones said in a statement released today by the NRAO.

To get a better view of the black hole, his team snapped a total of 103 images of V404 Cygni, each with an exposure of about 70 seconds, and pieced them together into an animation, thereby obtaining a short movie of the active black hole. The visualization revealed that the object was wobbling like a spinning top, pulling space-time around with it and redirecting its relativistic jets in the process, reports Gizmodo.

“We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system — it was completely unexpected,” said study co-author Greg Sivakoff, an astronomer at the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Finding this astronomical first has deepened our understanding of how black holes and galaxy formation can work. It tells us a little more about that big question: ‘How did we get here?’”

The results are consistent with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts that massive objects can warp space-time.

“When such a massive object is spinning, its gravitational influence pulls space and time around with it, an effect called frame-dragging,” detailed the NRAO, which runs the VLBA radio telescope network for the National Science Foundation.

As the black hole feeds on its neighboring star, the innermost portion of its accretion disk – which measures 6.2 million miles across in its entirety – is “puffed up” by the intense radiation generated while the ravenous object gorges on its stellar companion. This, coupled with the fact that the black hole’s spin axis is misaligned with the plane of the star, “causes the frame-dragging effect to warp the inner part of the disk, then pull the warped portion around with it,” explained NRAO officials.

Since the jets originate from either the inner disk or the black hole, this changes the jet orientation, producing the wobbling observed with the VLBA.”

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Space

Voyager 2 has discovered something amazing: Denser space outside the solar system

In November 2018, after a 41-year voyage, Voyager 2 crossed the boundary beyond which the Sun’s influence ends, and entered interstellar space. But the mission of the little probe is not yet complete – it continues to make amazing discoveries

Perhaps the probes have found some kind of traffic jam at the edge of the solar system. The Voyager flight continues and we will soon find out what it was.

Voyager 2 discovered something amazing: as the distance from the Sun increases, the density of space increases.

Voyager 1, which entered interstellar space in 2012, transmitted similar indicators to Earth. New data have shown that the increase in density may be a feature of the interstellar medium.

The solar system has several boundaries, one of which, called the heliopause, is determined by the solar wind, or rather by its significant weakening. The space inside the heliopause is the heliosphere, and the space outside is the interstellar medium. But the heliosphere is not round. It looks more like an oval, in which the solar system is at the leading edge, and a kind of tail stretches behind it.

Both Voyagers crossed the heliopause at the leading edge, but within 67 degrees heliographic latitude and 43 degrees longitude apart.

Interstellar space is usually considered a vacuum, but this is not entirely true. The density of matter is extremely small, but it still exists. In the solar system, the solar wind has an average density of protons and electrons from 3 to 10 particles per cubic centimeter, but it is lower the further from the Sun.

The average concentration of electrons in the interstellar space of the Milky Way is estimated to be about 0.037 particles per cubic centimeter. And the plasma density in the outer heliosphere reaches approximately 0.002 electrons per cubic centimeter. When the Voyager probes crossed the heliopause, their instruments recorded the electron density of the plasma through plasma oscillations.

Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause on August 25, 2012 at a distance of 121.6 astronomical units from the Earth (121.6 times the distance from Earth to the Sun – about 18.1 billion km). When he first measured plasma oscillations after crossing the heliopause on October 23, 2013 at a distance of 122.6 astronomical units (18.3 billion km), he found a plasma density of 0.055 electrons per cubic centimeter.

After flying another 20 astronomical units (2.9 billion kilometers), Voyager 1 reported an increase in the density of interstellar space to 0.13 electrons per cubic centimeter.

Voyager 2 crossed the heliopause on November 5, 2018 at a distance of 119 astronomical units (17.8 billion kilometers. On January 30, 2019, it measured plasma oscillations at a distance of 119.7 astronomical units (17.9 billion kilometers), finding that the density plasma is 0.039 electrons per cubic centimeter.

In June 2019, Voyager 2’s Instruments showed a sharp increase in density to about 0.12 electrons per cubic centimeter at a distance of 124.2 astronomical units (18.5 billion kilometers).

What caused the increase in the density of space? One theory is that the lines of force of the interstellar magnetic field become stronger with distance from the heliopause. This can cause electromagnetic ion cyclotron instability. Voyager 2 did detect an increase in the magnetic field after crossing the heliopause.

Another theory is that the material carried away by the interstellar wind should slow down in the heliopause, forming a kind of plug, as evidenced by the weak ultraviolet glow detected by the New Horizons probe in 2018, caused by the accumulation of neutral hydrogen in the heliopause.

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Space

NASA has banned fighting and littering on the moon

New details of the agreement signed by representatives of a number of countries on the development of the moon and the extraction of minerals within the framework of the Artemis program have appeared. Reported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

So, astronauts involved in the mission are prohibited from littering and fighting on the territory of a natural satellite of the Earth.

So, we present to you the new rules for being on the Moon:

Everyone comes in peace;

Confidentiality is prohibited, all launched objects must be identified and registered;

All travel participants agree to help each other in case of emergencies;

All received data is transferred to the rest of the participants, and space systems must be universal;

Historic sites must be preserved and all rubbish must be disposed of;

Rovers and spacecraft should not interfere with other participants.

“”It is important not only to go to the moon with our astronauts, but also that we bring our values ​​with us,” said Mike Gold, acting head of NASA’s international and inter-agency relations.

According to him, violators of the above rules will be asked to “just leave” the territory of the moon.

The effect of these principles so far applies to eight signatory countries of the agreement: the USA, Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Countries other than China can join if they wish.

 It should be noted that at the moment NASA is prohibited from signing any bilateral agreements with the PRC leadership.

The first NASA mission to the moon, known as “Artemis 1”, is scheduled for 2021 without astronauts, and “Artemis 2” will fly with a crew in 2023.

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Space

Methane snow found on the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains

Scientists believe that it arose as a result of the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above the surface of the planet.

In the images of the Cthulhu region – a dark region in the equatorial regions of Pluto – planetary scientists have found large reserves of methane snow that covers the peaks of local mountains and hills. It formed quite differently from how snow forms on Earth, astronomers write in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“The white caps on the tops of Pluto’s mountains did not arise from the cooling of air currents that rise along the slopes into the upper atmosphere, as it happens on Earth, but from the accumulation of large amounts of methane at an altitude of several kilometers above Pluto’s surface. This gas condensed on the mountain tops, “the scientists write.

We owe almost everything we know about Pluto to the New Horizons interplanetary station. It was launched in January 2006, and in mid-July 2015 the station reached the Pluto system. New Horizons flew just 13 thousand km from the dwarf planet, taking many photographs of its surface. 

New Horizons data indicated an interesting feature of Pluto – in its depths, a giant subglacial ocean of liquid water can be hidden. It can be a kind of engine of those geological processes, traces of which can be seen on the surface of a dwarf planet. Because of this discovery of New Horizons, many discussions began among planetary scientists. Scientists are trying to understand how such a structure could have arisen, as well as to find out the appearance of Pluto in the distant past.

Members of the New Horizons science team and their colleagues from France, led by planetary scientist from NASA’s Ames Research Center (USA) Tanguy Bertrand, have discovered another unusual feature of Pluto. They studied the relief of one of the regions of the dwarf planet – the Cthulhu region. This is what astronomers call a large dark region at Pluto’s equator, which is whale-like in shape and is covered in many craters, mountains and hills.

Snow in Pluto’s mountains

By analyzing images of these structures taken by the LORRI camera installed on board New Horizons, astronomers have noticed many blank spots on the slopes of the highest mountain peaks. Having studied their composition, scientists have found that they consist mainly of methane.

Initially, planetary scientists assumed that these are deposits of methane ice. However, Bertrand and his colleagues found that the slopes and even the tops of Pluto’s equatorial mountains are actually covered not only with ice, but also with exotic methane snow that forms right on their surface.

Planetary scientists came to this conclusion by calculating how methane behaves in Pluto’s atmosphere. In doing so, they took into account how the molecules of its gases interact with the sun’s rays and other heat sources. It turned out that at the equator of Pluto, at an altitude of 2-3 km from its surface, due to the special nature of the movement of winds, unique conditions have formed, due to which snow is formed from methane vapor.

Unlike Earth, where such deposits are formed as a result of the rise of warm air into the upper atmosphere, on Pluto this process goes in the opposite direction – as a result of contact of the cold surface of the peaks and slopes of mountains with warm air masses from the relatively high layers of the dwarf planet’s atmosphere.

Previously, as noted by Bertrand and his colleagues, scientists did not suspect that this was possible. The fact is that they did not take into account that due to the deposition of even a small amount of methane snow and ice, the reflectivity of the peaks and slopes of mountains in the Cthulhu region increases. As a result, their surface temperature drops sharply, and snow forms even faster.

Scientists suggest that another mysterious feature of Pluto’s relief could have arisen in a similar way – the so-called Tartarus Ridges, located east of the Sputnik plain. A distinctive feature of this mountainous region is strange peaks that are shaped like skyscrapers or blades. Bertrand and his colleagues suggest that these peaks are also methane ice deposits that grow “from top to bottom.”

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