Out of this world New
Imagine spending every day discussing ideas that are literally ‘out of this world’ and studying objects which are so distant, that even with the most advanced telescopes, they only appear as tiny points of light.
These objects are in the other hundreds of billions of galaxies which make up the universe and are nothing like what we would find here on Earth! Most, if not all, of these galaxies contain a super massive black hole at their centre. The Milky Way, which is the galaxy containing our solar system, contains a black hole which is millions of times bigger than our Sun.
Sounds massive right? But it is by no means the biggest. The largest known black hole is in a galaxy called OJ+287, which is 3.5 billion light years away and is as big as 18 billion Suns.
The edge of a black hole is called the event horizon and, if matter gets too close to it, it is drawn inwards by the strong gravitational pull and is swallowed up, leaving just a whirling disk of matter surrounding the black hole.
Some galaxies also have jets of plasma, travelling close to the speed of light, that appear to emerge from the ‘north’ and ‘south’ pole region of the black hole, these galaxies are called blazars.
You may be wondering how, if the gravitational pull of black holes is so strong, anything can escape from within it? The answer to this question is being studied by physicists who are looking at where jets come from and how they are created.
This video shows how physicists believe the jets are formed; not from the black hole itself but from the disk of matter surrounding it – the material escapes the strong gravitational potential of the black hole and is ejected millions of kilometres into space :
So you may be thinking, ‘this is pretty cool but why does it matter to me?’ Well by collecting and studying data, scientists and mathematicians will be able to find and predict information about different extreme systems and try to help everyone understand the Universe a little bit better.
If you think you would like to study space, travel the world and collaborate with fellow astrophysicists to try to revolutionise the world’s understanding of physics you might want to consider these careers :
An astronomer – using science to study the universe
A physicist – developing techniques and theories to help us understand the universe
A mathematician – creating models of what other universes may be like on the inside using math’s and information collected from the outside. For examples of using maths this way you can look here and here.
The image in this article is courtesy of NASA. You can find it here.