Our Supermassive Black Hole Is a Natural Particle Accelerator

Article written: 27 Feb , 2007
Updated: 24 Mar , 2012
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Artist impression of a supermassive black hole. Image credit: ESAAlthough the centre of the Milky Way is obscured by gas and dust, you can see right through using wavelengths other than the visible spectrum. Infrared is great, but it can also be revealed in gamma rays. And here’s the strange thing, gamma rays are pouring out from the centre of our galaxy.

Since the centre of the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole, astronomers believe it’s acting like a gigantic particle accelerator, smashing protons together and releasing high energy gamma rays.

Astronomers at The University of Arizona, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Adelaide (Australia) think they understand the mechanism at work here. The intense magnetic field around the black hole accelerates protons and smashes them together. These collisions release a torrent of particles moving nearly the speed of light as well as the gamma rays we detect here on Earth.

The astronomers developed a simulation, where ejected particles interact with material surrounding the supermassive black hole. They calculated the magnetic force required to impart these enormous particle velocities, and the energies released as they smash and interact with the surrounding material.

And we have a relatively quiet black hole. Just imagine what’s happening what’s happening around an actively feeding supermassive black hole.

Original Source: University of Arizona News Release


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