Astrophysical jet

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An astrophysical jet (hereafter 'jet') is a phenomenon often seen in astronomy, where streams of matter are emitted along the axis of rotation of a compact object. While it is still the subject of ongoing research to understand how jets are formed and powered, the two most often proposed origins are dynamic interactions within the accretion disk or a process from the central object (such as a black hole). When matter is emitted at speeds approaching the speed of light, these jets are called relativistic jets, because the effects of special relativity become important. The largest jets are those from black holes in active galaxies such as quasars and radio galaxies. Other systems which often contain jets include cataclysmic variable stars, X-ray binaries and T Tauri stars. Herbig–Haro objects are caused by the interaction of jets with the interstellar medium. Bipolar outflows or jets may also be associated with protostars (young, forming stars),[1] or with evolved post-AGB stars (often in the form of bipolar nebulae).

Question dropshade.png Unsolved problem in physics:
Why do the disks surrounding certain objects, such as the centers of active galaxies, emit jets along their polar axes?
(more unsolved problems in physics)

Accretion disks around many stellar objects are able to produce jets, although those from super massive black holes are the fastest and most active. This is because the speed of the jet is around the same speed as the escape velocity of the central object.[citation needed] This makes the speed of a jet from an accreting black hole near the speed of light, while protostellar jets are much slower. While it is not known exactly how accretion disks manage to produce jets, they are thought to generate tangled magnetic fields that cause the jets to collimate. The hydrodynamics of a de Laval nozzle may also give a hint to the mechanisms involved.

One of the best ways of exploring how jets are produced is to determine the composition of the jets at a radius where they can be directly observed. For example, it has been suggested if a jet originates from the accretion disk, its plasma is likely to have ion-electron composition, whereas if it originates from the black hole or neutron star it will likely be positron-electron in nature. Also, the plasma emits various forms of radiation such as X-rays and radio waves, which aid diagnosis.

Relativistic jet[edit]

Relativistic jet. The environment around the AGN where the relativistic plasma is collimated into jets which escape along the pole of the supermassive black hole.

Relativistic jets are extremely powerful jets[2] of plasma, with speeds close to the speed of light, that are emitted near the central massive objects of some active galaxies, notably radio galaxies and quasars. Their lengths can reach several thousand[3] or even hundreds of thousands of light years.[4] Because the jet speed is close to the speed of light, the effects of the Special Theory of Relativity are important; in particular, relativistic beaming will change the apparent brightness. The mechanics behind both the creation of the jets[5][6] and the composition of the jets[7] are still a matter of much debate in the scientific community. Jet composition might vary; some studies favour a model in which the jets are composed of an electrically neutral mixture of nuclei, electrons, and positrons, while others are consistent with a jet primarily of positron-electron plasma.[8][9]

Elliptical galaxy M87 emitting a relativistic jet, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Similar jets, though on a much smaller scale, can develop from neutron stars and stellar black holes. These systems are often called microquasars. An example is SS433, whose well-observed jet has a velocity of 0.23c, although other microquasars appear to have much higher (but less well measured) jet velocities. Even weaker and less relativistic jets may be associated with many binary systems; the acceleration mechanism for these jets may be similar to the magnetic reconnection processes observed in the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind.

The general hypothesis among astrophysicists is that the formation of relativistic jets is the key to explaining the production of gamma-ray bursts. These jets have Lorentz factors of ~100 (that is, speeds of roughly 0.99995c), making them some of the swiftest celestial objects currently known. Neutron stars[10]are also known to have relativistic jets.[11]

The pulsar IGR J1104-6103 with supernova remnant origin, nebula and jet
(Credits: NASA / ISDC / CXC / L. Pavan et al.)

IGR J11014-6103 has the largest jet observed in the Milky Way Galaxy. Fortunately this relativistic helical jet is not obscured by explosion debris or accretion material. Numbers in this paragraph are tentative. In the composite image shown (click on image to enlarge) the rapidly spinning neutron star (labeled PULSAR in the image) is the point-like object with a WIND NEBULA tail trailing behind it for about 3 light years. The JET, aligned with the pulsar’s rotation axis, is perpendicular to the pulsar's trajectory and extends out over 37 light years (about 10X the distance from our solar system to the nearest star). The estimated jet velocity is 0.8c. This high speed runaway pulsar was created and ejected about 15 thousand years prior, from a supernova explosion which created the SUPERNOVA REMNANT. This pulsar apparently does not have an accretion disk; there are 15 known Accreting Millisecond X-Ray Pulsars (AMXPs) and IGR J11014-6103 is not among them.[12] The jet is only seen in x-rays and there is no radio signature,[13] likely due to star orientation and/or possibly an absence of accretion material. The pulsar's speed is reported between 0.001 - 0.003c; faster than most runaway neutron stars.[14][15][16][17]

Rotating black hole as energy source[edit]

Because of the enormous amount of energy needed to launch a relativistic jet, some jets are thought to be powered by spinning black holes. There are two well known theories for how the energy is transferred from the black hole to the jet.

  • Blandford–Znajek process.[18] This is the most popular theory for the extraction of energy from the central black hole. The magnetic fields around the accretion disk are dragged by the spin of the black hole. The relativistic material is possibly launched by the tightening of the field lines.
  • Penrose mechanism.[19] This extracts energy from a rotating black hole by frame dragging. This theory was later proven to be able to extract relativistic particle energy and momentum,[20] and subsequently shown to be a possible mechanism for the formation of jets.[21]

A Hubble Space Telescope survey indicated that relativistic jets may be more likely to form from supermassive black holes resulting from the merger of two galaxies and their galaxy centre's black holes. Not all galaxy mergers create relativistic jets.[22][23] NASA/ESA Video

Other images[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Star sheds via reverse whirlpool". 27 December 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Wehrle, A.E.; Zacharias, N.; Johnston, K.; et al. (11 Feb 2009). "What is the structure of Relativistic Jets in AGN on Scales of Light Days?" (PDF). Astro2010: the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey 2010: 310. Bibcode:2009astro2010S.310W. 
  3. ^ Biretta, J. (6 Jan 1999). "Hubble Detects Faster-Than-Light Motion in Galaxy M87". 
  4. ^ "Evidence for Ultra-Energetic Particles in Jet from Black Hole". Yale University - Office of Public Affairs. 20 June 2006. Archived from the original on 2008. 
  5. ^ Meier, David L (2003). "The theory and simulation of relativistic jet formation: Towards a unified model for micro- and macroquasars". New Astronomy Reviews 47 (6–7): 667. arXiv:astro-ph/0312048. Bibcode:2003NewAR..47..667M. doi:10.1016/S1387-6473(03)00120-9. 
  6. ^ Semenov, V.; Dyadechkin, Sergey; Punsly, Brian (2004). "Simulations of Jets Driven by Black Hole Rotation". Science 305 (5686): 978–980. arXiv:astro-ph/0408371. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..978S. doi:10.1126/science.1100638. PMID 15310894. 
  7. ^ Georganopoulos, Markos; Kazanas, Demosthenes; Perlman, Eric; Stecker, Floyd W. (2005). "Bulk Comptonization of the Cosmic Microwave Background by Extragalactic Jets as a Probe of Their Matter Content". The Astrophysical Journal 625 (2): 656. arXiv:astro-ph/0502201. Bibcode:2005ApJ...625..656G. doi:10.1086/429558. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Wardle, J.F.C. "Electron–positron jets associated with the quasar 3C279". Nature 395 (1 October 1998): 457–461. Bibcode:1998Natur.395..457W. doi:10.1038/26675. 
  10. ^ Neutron Stars and Pulsars
  11. ^
  12. ^ Accreting Millisecond X-Ray Pulsars
  13. ^ Runaway pulsar has astronomers scratching their heads
  14. ^
  15. ^ IGR J11014-6103: Has the Speediest Pulsar Been Found?
  16. ^ A closer view of the IGR J11014-6103 outflows
  17. ^
  18. ^ Blandford, R. D.; Znajek, R. L. (1977). "Electromagnetic extraction of energy from Kerr black holes". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 179 (3): 433. Bibcode:1977MNRAS.179..433B. doi:10.1093/mnras/179.3.433. 
  19. ^ Penrose, Roger (1969). "Gravitational Collapse: The Role of General Relativity". Rivista del Nuovo Cimento 1: 252–276. Bibcode:1969NCimR...1..252P.  Reprinted in: Penrose, R. (2002), ""Golden Oldie": Gravitational Collapse: The Role of General Relativity", General Relativity and Gravitation 34 (7): 1141, Bibcode:2002GReGr..34.1141P, doi:10.1023/A:1016578408204 
  20. ^ R.K. Williams (1995). "Extracting x rays, Ύ rays, and relativistic ee+ pairs from supermassive Kerr black holes using the Penrose mechanism". Physical Review 51 (10): 5387–5427. Bibcode:1995PhRvD..51.5387W. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.51.5387. 
  21. ^ Williams, Reva Kay (2004). "Collimated Escaping Vortical Polare−e+Jets Intrinsically Produced by Rotating Black Holes and Penrose Processes". The Astrophysical Journal 611 (2): 952. arXiv:astro-ph/0404135. Bibcode:2004ApJ...611..952W. doi:10.1086/422304. 
  22. ^ "Galaxy Crashes May Give Birth to Powerful Space Jets". Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  23. ^ "Merging galaxies break radio silence - Large Hubble survey confirms link between mergers and supermassive black holes with relativistic jets". Retrieved 2015-05-29.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  24. ^ "Hubble Video Shows Shock Collision Inside Black Hole Jet". 27 May 2015. 

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