UMBC physicists witness black hole history: 'Something like this has never been seen before' - Baltimore


Jun. 2, 2015 10:31 am

UMBC physicists witness black hole history: ‘Something like this has never been seen before’

Eileen Meyer and Markos Georganopoulos used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to find the first evidence of superfast plasma jets colliding as they streamed out of a black hole.

Plasma jet images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Courtesy image)

A pair of UMBC physicists used data from the Hubble telescope to enhance understanding about black hole science. In doing so, they provided the first evidence of what happens when plasma jets collide.

In a study recently published in the journal Nature, Eileen Meyer and Markos Georganopoulos reported on how the beguiling beams of radiation interact as they stream away from a black hole at 98 percent of the speed of light.

Over the last 25 years, the Hubble photographed a “supermassive black hole,” which sits at the center of the eliptical galaxy 3C 264, located 260 million light years away from Earth.

Meyer and Georganopoulos found evidence of one of the jets, which assumed a “string of pearls” structure as it streamed away from the black hole. When the photos were assembled into the astronomical equivalent of a time-lapse movie, they found a second, faster jet colliding at the rear.

This produced a “shock collision,” which made the particles a lot brighter, and faster. Astronomers initially said it looked like the jet was moving seven times faster than the speed of light, but that turned out to be an opitcal illusion.

Scientists have hypothesized that the jets of plasma got their energy as a result of faster jets running into slower ones, but evidence has remained elusive. The Baltimore team was the first to confirm that it happened.

“Something like this has never been seen before in an extragalactic jet,” said Meyer, who is finishing up a postdoc at Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute — which serves as the science operations center for Hubble — before moving to UMBC.

The collision will continue over the next few decades. Along with rubbernecking at the crash, astronomers will be looking at how the particles dissipate out into space.

“This will allow us a very rare opportunity to see how the kinetic energy of the collision is dissipated into radiation,” she said.

You must appreciate accurate, relevant and productive community journalism.  Support this sort of work from professional reporters with seasoned editors.  Become a member for $12 per month -30-


Sign up with NASA to send your name to the Sun

Tuesday: UMB hosts all-day MakerExpo

This incubator is helping Johns Hopkins undergrads become entrepreneurs



How Think|Stack and Year Up are cultivating local tech talent


The Tactile Group

Full Stack Developer

Apply Now
Baltimore, MD

Money Map Press

HTML / CSS Production Specialist

Apply Now
3500 Boston St, Baltimore, MD 21224


Sales and Business Analyst

Apply Now

These 8 startups are finalists in MICA’s 2018 venture competition

After JHU helped create buzz, the mosquito emoji is coming this summer

Steve Case is kicking off a new startup series from Hopkins, University of Maryland



Let these free workshops help your business really take off


Terbium Labs

Account Executive

Apply Now
Hunt Valley

ONeil Interactive

Digital Creative Manager

Apply Now
Hunt Valley

ONeil Interactive

Junior Digital Strategist

Apply Now

Sign-up for regular updates from

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!