Black holes spit iron, nickel: study


Black holes spit out mighty high-speed jets of matter that include heavy atoms, a study published in Nature said on Wednesday.

The jets are known to contain electrons, which are negatively charged. But the enigma is that the jets are not negatively charged overall, which implies there should be something positively charged in there to balance things out.

That “something” appears to be atoms of iron and nickel, according to astronomers using Europe’s XMM-Newton space telescope and the Compact Array facility in eastern Australia.

Lines of atoms were seen in emissions streaming out of a small black hole called 4U1630-47 at two-thirds the speed of light. The jets’ source appears to be the accretion disk, a belt of hot gas that swirls around the hole’s maw.

The finding is important because black holes, in addition to being destroyers, are creators too. They recycle matter and energy back into space, and the jets help to shape when and where a galaxy forms stars.