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Astronomers observe life cycle of black hole jets
Posted: Mon, Oct 7, 2002, 7:16 AM ET (1116 GMT)
Astronomers announced last week that they have observed for the first time the full life cycle of jets of material emitted from the vicinity of a black hole. Astronomers first detected the jets from the double star system XTE J1550-564, which is thought to include a stellar-mass black hole, in 1998 using the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. Astronomers measured the two jets over next four years using Rossi and, later, the Chandra X-ray Observatory. By June of this year one of the jets began to fade as both jets of electrons, originally traveling near light speed, encountered interstellar gas and decelerated. The observations are useful since supermassive back holes emit similar jets, but over timescales of thousands of years. Stephane Corbel, the French scientist who led the team whose results were published in the latest issue of the journal Science, likened the observations to "watching a time-lapse movie of the rise and fall of the Bronze Age."
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