Astrophysical jet

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An astrophysical jet (hereafter 'jet') is an astronomical phenomenon where outflows of ionised matter are emitted as an extended beam along the axis of rotation.[1] Formation and powering astrophysical jets is not fully understood, but it is likely that their origins are from dynamic interactions within accretion disks or from active processes associated with compact central objects: such as black holes, neutron stars or pulsars. When this greatly accelerated matter approaches the speed of light astrophysical jets become relativistic jets as they show effects under special relativity.[2] It is not exactly known how jets are formed in accretion disks or how the matter is accelerated, but it is possibly due to generated tangled magnetic fields[2] that aim two diametrically opposing beams away from the central source by angles only several degrees wide. (c.>1%.)[3]

Many astronomical objects that contain jets include cataclysmic variable stars, X-ray binaries and Gamma ray bursters (GRB). Others are associated with star forming regions including T Tauri stars and Herbig–Haro objects, which are caused by the interaction of jets with the interstellar medium. Bipolar outflows or jets may also be associated with protostars,[4] or with evolved post-AGB stars, planetary nebulae and bipolar nebulae.

Most of the largest and most active jets are created by super massive black holes (SMBH) black holes in the centre of active galaxies such as quasars and radio galaxies or within galaxy clusters.[5] Such jets can exceed millions of parsecs in length.[3]

Relativistic jets[edit]

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

Relativistic jets are beams of ionised matter accelerated close to the speed of light. Most have been observationally associated with central black holes of some active galaxies, radio galaxies or quasars, and also by galactic stellar black holes, neutron stars or pulsars. Beam lengths may extend between several thousand,[6] hundreds of thousands[7] or millions of parsecs.[3] Jet velocities when approaching the speed of light show significant effects of the Special Theory of Relativity; for example, relativistic beaming that changes the apparent beam brightness (see the 'one-sided' jets below).[8]

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

Massive central black holes in galaxies have the most powerful jets, but their structure and behaviours are similar to those of smaller galatic neutron stars and black holes. These SMBH systems are often called microquasars and show a large range of velocities. SS433 jet, for example, has a velocity of 0.23c.[citation needed] Relativistic jet formation may also explain observed gamma-ray bursts. Notably, even weaker and less relativistic jets may be associated with many binary systems.[citation needed]

Mechanisms behind the composition of jets remain uncertain,[9] though some studies favour models where jets are composed of an electrically neutral mixture of nuclei, electrons, and positrons, while others are consistent with jets composed of positron-electron plasma.[10][11][12] Here trace nuclei swept up in a relativistic positron-electron jet would be expected to have extremely high energy, as these heavier nuclei should attain velocity equal to the positron and electron velocity.[clarification needed]

Rotation as possible 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 main theories for how energy is transferred from a black hole to a jet.

  • Blandford–Znajek process.[13] This theory explains the extraction of energy from magnetic fields around an accretion disk, which are dragged and twisted by the spin of the black hole. Relativistic material is then feasibly launched by the tightening of the field lines.
  • Penrose mechanism.[14] Here energy is extracted from a rotating black hole by frame dragging, which was was later thoeretically proven to be able to extract relativistic particle energy and momentum,[15] and subsequently shown to be a possible mechanism for jet formation.[16]

Relativistic jets from neutron stars[edit]

The pulsar IGR J11014-6103 with supernova remnant origin, nebula and jet.

Jets may also be observed from spinning neutron stars. An example is pulsar IGR J11014-6103, which has the largest jet so far observed in the Milky Way Galaxy whose velocity is estimated at 80% the speed of light. (0.8c.) X-ray observations have been obtained but there is no detected radio signature nor accretion disk.[17][18] Initially, this pulsar was presumed to be rapidly spinning but later measurements indicate the spin rate is only 15.9 Hz.[19][20] Such a slow spin rate and lack of accretion material suggest the jet is neither rotation nor accretion powered, though it appears aligned with the pulsar rotation axis and perpendicular to the pulsar's true motion.

Other images[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beall, J.H. (May 2015). "A Review of Astrophysical Jets : Proceedings of the XI Multifrequency Behaviour of High Energy Cosmic Sources Workshop (MULTIF15). 25-30 May 2015. Palermo, Italy." (PDF). Proceedings of Science. Bibcode:2015mbhe.confE..58B. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Morabito, Linda, A.; Meyer, David (2012). "Jets and Accretion Disks in Astrophysics - A Brief Review". arXiv: 1–8. Bibcode:2012arXiv1211.0701M. 
  3. ^ a b c Kundt, Wolfgang (May 2014). "A Uniform Description of All the Astrophysical Jets : Frontier Research in Astrophysics, 26-31 May 2014 Mondello (Palermo), Italy" (PDF). Proceedings of Science. Bibcode:2015mbhe.confE..58B. Retrieved 19 February 2017. 
  4. ^ "Star sheds via reverse whirlpool". 27 December 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Beall, James H (2014). "A review of Astrophysical Jets". Acta Polytechnica CTU Proceedings. 1 (1): 259–264. Bibcode:2014mbhe.conf..259B. doi:10.14311/APP.2014.01.0259. 
  6. ^ Biretta, J. (6 Jan 1999). "Hubble Detects Faster-Than-Light Motion in Galaxy M87". 
  7. ^ "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. 
  8. ^ Semenov, V.; Dyadechkin, Sergey; Punsly, Brian (2004). "Simulations of Jets Driven by Black Hole Rotation". Science. 305 (5686): 978–980. arXiv:astro-ph/0408371Freely accessible. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..978S. doi:10.1126/science.1100638. PMID 15310894. 
  9. ^ 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/0502201Freely accessible. Bibcode:2005ApJ...625..656G. doi:10.1086/429558. 
  10. ^ Pair Plasma Dominance in the Relativistic Jet of 3C345
  11. ^ Electron-positron Jets Associated with Quasar 3C 279
  12. ^ "NASA – Vast Cloud of Antimatter Traced to Binary Stars". 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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 
  15. ^ 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. PMID 10018300. 
  16. ^ Williams, Reva Kay (2004). "Collimated Escaping Vortical Polar e−e+Jets Intrinsically Produced by Rotating Black Holes and Penrose Processes". The Astrophysical Journal. 611 (2): 952. arXiv:astro-ph/0404135Freely accessible. Bibcode:2004ApJ...611..952W. doi:10.1086/422304. 
  17. ^ "Chandra :: Photo Album :: IGR J11014-6103  :: June 28, 2012". 
  18. ^ Pavan, L.; Pühlhofer, G.; Bordas, P.; Audard, M.; Balbo, M.; Bozzo, E.; Eckert, D.; Ferrigno, C.; Filipović, M. D.; Verdugo, M.; Walter, R. (2015). "A closer view of the IGR J11014-6103 outflows". arXiv:1511.01944Freely accessible [astro-ph.HE]. 
  19. ^ Pavan, L.; Bordas, P.; Pühlhofer, G.; Filipović, M. D.; De Horta, A.; o' Brien, A.; Balbo, M.; Walter, R.; Bozzo, E.; Ferrigno, C.; Crawford, E.; Stella, L. (2014). "The long helical jet of the Lighthouse nebula, IGR J11014-6103" (PDF). Astronomy & Astrophysics. 562: A122. arXiv:1309.6792Freely accessible. Bibcode:2014A&A...562A.122P. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201322588.  Long helical jet of Lighthouse nebula page 7
  20. ^ Halpern, J. P.; Tomsick, J. A.; Gotthelf, E. V.; Camilo, F.; Ng, C. -Y.; Bodaghee, A.; Rodriguez, J.; Chaty, S.; Rahoui, F. (2014). "Discovery of X-ray Pulsations from the INTEGRAL Source IGR J11014-6103". The Astrophysical Journal. 795 (2): L27. arXiv:1410.2332Freely accessible. Bibcode:2014ApJ...795L..27H. doi:10.1088/2041-8205/795/2/L27. 
  21. ^ "Hubble Video Shows Shock Collision Inside Black Hole Jet". 27 May 2015. 

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