Bolha de gás quente ‘incrível’ vista deslizando ao redor do buraco negro supermassivo da Via Láctea

Os astrônomos detectaram sinais de um “ponto quente” orbitando em torno de Sagitário A*, o buraco negro no centro de nossa galáxia.

Os astrônomos detectaram sinais de um ‘ponto quente’ orbitando em torno de Sagitário A*, e[{” attribute=””>black hole at the center of our galaxy, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The finding helps us better understand the enigmatic and dynamic environment of our supermassive black hole.

“We think we’re looking at a hot bubble of gas zipping around Sagittarius A* on an orbit similar in size to that of the planet Mercury, but making a full loop in just around 70 minutes. This requires a mind-blowing velocity of about 30% of the speed of light!” says Maciek Wielgus of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. He led the study that was published today (September 22, 2022) in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The Orbit of the Hot Spot Around Sagittarius A*

This shows a still image of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A*, as seen by the Event Horizon Collaboration (EHT), with an artist’s illustration indicating where the modeling of the ALMA data predicts the hot spot to be and its orbit around the black hole. Credit: EHT Collaboration, ESO/M. Kornmesser (Acknowledgment: M. Wielgus)

The observations were made with ALMA in the Chilean Andes, during a campaign by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration to image black holes. ALMA is — a radio telescope co-owned by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). In April 2017 the EHT linked together eight existing radio telescopes worldwide, including ALMA, resulting in the recently released first-ever image of Sagittarius A*. To calibrate the EHT data, Wielgus and his colleagues, who are members of the EHT Collaboration, used ALMA data recorded simultaneously with the EHT observations of Sagittarius A*. To the research team’s surprise, there were more clues to the nature of the black hole hidden in the ALMA-only measurements.


Usando o ALMA, os astrônomos encontraram uma bolha quente de gás orbitando Sagitário A*, o buraco negro no centro da nossa galáxia, a 30% da velocidade da luz.

Por acaso, algumas observações foram feitas logo após uma explosão ou brilho de energia de raios X ter sido emitido do centro de nossa galáxia, o que foi observado por[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. These kinds of flares, previously observed with X-ray and infrared telescopes, are thought to be associated with so-called ‘hot spots’, hot gas bubbles that orbit very fast and close to the black hole.

“What is really new and interesting is that such flares were so far only clearly present in X-ray and infrared observations of Sagittarius A*. Here we see for the first time a very strong indication that orbiting hot spots are also present in radio observations,” says Wielgus, who is also affiliated with the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, in Warsaw, Poland and the Black Hole Initiative at Harvard University, USA.


Este vídeo mostra uma animação de um ponto quente, uma bolha de gás quente, em órbita ao redor de Sagitário A*, um buraco negro quatro milhões de vezes maior que o nosso Sol no centro do nosso planeta.[{” attribute=””>Milky Way. While the black hole (center) has been directly imaged with the Event Horizon Telescope, the gas bubble represented around it has not: its orbit and velocity are inferred from both observations and models. The team who discovered evidence for this hot spot — using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner — predicts the gas bubble orbits very close to the black hole, at a distance about five times larger than the black hole’s boundary or “event horizon.”

The astronomers behind the discovery also predict that the hot spot becomes dimmer and brighter as it goes around the black hole, as indicated in this animation. Additionally, they can infer that it takes 70 minutes for the gas bubble to complete an orbit, putting its velocity at an astonishing 30% of the speed of light.

Credit: EHT Collaboration, ESO/L. Calçada (Acknowledgment: M. Wielgus)

“Perhaps these hot spots detected at infrared wavelengths are a manifestation of the same physical phenomenon: as infrared-emitting hot spots cool down, they become visible at longer wavelengths, like the ones observed by ALMA and the EHT,” adds Jesse Vos. He is a PhD student at Radboud University, the Netherlands, and was also involved in this study.

The flares were long thought to originate from magnetic interactions in the very hot gas orbiting very close to Sagittarius A*, and the new findings support this idea. “Now we find strong evidence for a magnetic origin of these flares and our observations give us a clue about the geometry of the process. The new data are extremely helpful for building a theoretical interpretation of these events,” says co-author Monika Moscibrodzka from Radboud University.

First Image of Our Black Hole Sagittarius A*

This is the first image of Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It’s the first direct visual evidence of the presence of this black hole. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), an array that linked together eight existing radio observatories across the planet to form a single “Earth-sized” virtual telescope. The telescope is named after the event horizon, the boundary of the black hole beyond which no light can escape. Credit: EHT Collaboration

ALMA allows astronomers to study polarized radio emission from Sagittarius A*, which can be used to unveil the black hole’s magnetic field. The team used these observations together with theoretical models to learn more about the formation of the hot spot and the environment it is embedded in, including the magnetic field around Sagittarius A*. Their research provides stronger constraints on the shape of this magnetic field than previous observations, helping astronomers uncover the nature of our black hole and its surroundings.

Milky Way Central Black Hole Location ALMA

This image shows the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) looking up at the Milky Way as well as the location of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at our galactic center. Highlighted in the box is the image of Sagittarius A* taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration. Located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, ALMA is the most sensitive of all the observatories in the EHT array, and ESO is a co-owner of ALMA on behalf of its European Member States. Credit: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org), EHT Collaboration

The observations confirm some of the previous discoveries made by the GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), which observes in the infrared. The data from GRAVITY and ALMA both suggest the flare originates in a clump of gas swirling around the black hole at about 30% of the speed of light in a clockwise direction in the sky, with the orbit of the hot spot being nearly face-on.

“In the future, we should be able to track hot spots across frequencies using coordinated multiwavelength observations with both GRAVITY and ALMA — the success of such an endeavor would be a true milestone for our understanding of the physics of flares in the Galactic center,” says Ivan Marti-Vidal of the University of València in Spain, co-author of the study.

Milky Way Wide Field View

Wide-field view of the center of the Milky Way. This visible light wide-field view shows the rich star clouds in the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer) in the direction of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The entire image is filled with vast numbers of stars — but far more remain hidden behind clouds of dust and are only revealed in infrared images. This view was created from photographs in red and blue light and forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The field of view is approximately 3.5 degrees x 3.6 degrees. Credit: ESO and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin and S. Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard)

The team is also hoping to be able to directly observe the orbiting gas clumps with the EHT, to probe ever closer to the black hole and learn more about it. “Hopefully, one day, we will be comfortable saying that we ‘know’ what is going on in Sagittarius A*,” Wielgus concludes.

More information

Reference: “Orbital motion near Sagittarius A* – Constraints from polarimetric ALMA observations” by M. Wielgus, M. Moscibrodzka, J. Vos, Z. Gelles, I. Martí-Vidal, J. Farah, N. Marchili, C. Goddi and H. Messias, 22 September 2022, Astronomy & Astrophysics.
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/202244493

The team is composed of M. Wielgus (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Germany [MPIfR]; Centro Astronômico Nicolau Copérnico, Academia Polonesa de Ciências, Polônia; A Iniciativa do Buraco Negro na Universidade de Harvard, EUA [BHI]), M. Moscibrodzka (Departamento de Astrofísica, Radboud University, Holanda [Radboud]), J. Vos (Radboud), Z. Gelles (Centro de Astrofísica | Harvard & Smithsonian, EUA e BHI), I. Martí-Vidal (Universitat de València, Espanha), J. Farah (Observatório Las Cumbres, EUA; Universidade da Califórnia, Santa Bárbara, EUA), N. Marchili (Centro Regional Italiano ALMA, INAF-Istituto di Radioastronomia, Itália e MPIfR), C. Goddi (Dipartimento di Fisica, Università degli Studi di Cagliari, Itália e Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil) e H. Messias (Observatório Conjunto ALMA, Chile).

O Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), uma instalação internacional de astronomia, é uma parceria entre o ESO, a US National Science Foundation (NSF) e os Institutos Nacionais de Ciências Naturais (NINS) do Japão em colaboração com a República do Chile. O ALMA é financiado pelo ESO em nome dos seus estados membros, pela NSF em colaboração com o National Research Council of Canada (NRC) e o Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MOST) e pelo NINS em colaboração com a Academia Sinica (AS) em Taiwan e o Instituto Coreano de Astronomia e Ciências Espaciais (KASI). ). A criação e as operações do ALMA são lideradas pelo ESO em nome dos seus estados membros; Pelo Observatório Nacional de Radioastronomia (NRAO), operado pela Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), em nome da América do Norte; E pelo Observatório Astronômico Nacional do Japão (NAOJ) em nome da Ásia Oriental. O Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) fornece liderança e gestão unificada para a construção, operação e operação do ALMA.

O Observatório Europeu do Sul (ESO) permite que cientistas de todo o mundo descubram os segredos do universo para o benefício de todos. Projetamos, construímos e operamos observatórios de classe mundial na Terra – que os astrônomos usam para abordar questões interessantes e espalhar a magia da astronomia – e promovemos a cooperação internacional em astronomia. Fundado como uma organização intergovernamental em 1962, hoje o ESO apoia 16 estados membros (Áustria, Bélgica, República Checa, Dinamarca, França, Finlândia, Alemanha, Irlanda, Itália, Holanda, Polónia, Portugal, Espanha, Suécia, Suíça e Reino Unido ), juntamente com o país anfitrião Chile e com a Austrália como parceiro estratégico. A sede do ESO, centro de visitantes e planetário, ESO Supernova, está localizado perto de Munique, na Alemanha, enquanto o deserto chileno do Atacama, um lugar maravilhoso com condições únicas para observar o céu, hospeda nossos telescópios. O ESO opera três locais de monitoramento: La Silla, Paranal e Chajnantor. No Paranal, o ESO opera o Very Large Telescope e o Interferometer do Very Large Telescope, bem como dois telescópios de pesquisa infravermelhos e o telescópio de pesquisa de luz visível VLT. Também no Paranal, o ESO irá hospedar e operar o Telescópio South Array Cherenkov, o maior e mais sensível observatório de raios gama do mundo. Juntamente com parceiros internacionais, o ESO opera o APEX e o ALMA em Chajnantor, instalações de monitoramento do céu de dois milímetros e submilimétricos. No Cerro Armazones, perto do Paranal, estamos a construir o “maior olho no céu do mundo” – o Very Large Telescope do ESO. De nossos escritórios em Santiago, Chile, apoiamos nossas operações no país e trabalhamos com parceiros e a comunidade chilena.

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