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A black hole surrounded by an accretion disk with a jet protruding out of it, and a zoomed-in view of the jet showing different kinds of light being emitted after the particles hit the shock wave.

NASA’s IXPE Helps Solve Black Hole Jet Mystery

This illustration shows NASA’s IXPE spacecraft, at right, observing blazar Markarian 501, at left. A blazar is a black hole surrounded by a disk of gas and dust with a bright jet of high-energy particles pointed toward Earth. The inset illustration shows high-energy particles in the jet (blue). When the particles hit the shock wave, depicted as a white bar, the particles become energized and emit X-rays as they accelerate. Moving away from the shock, they emit lower-energy light: first visible, then infrared, and radio waves. Farther from the shock, the magnetic field lines are more chaotic, causing more turbulence in the particle stream.

Image Credit: NASA/Pablo Garcia