The mysterious phenomena in space known as "space tornadoes" are likely the result of high-energy gas shooting out of a rotating black hole, research by Kyoto University professor Takeshi Tsuru and postgraduate student Makoto Sawada has found.
Space tornadoes, which emit strong radio waves, were discovered in 1960, and became the focus of attention for their strange spiral shape. Scientists suggested that they were remains of exploding supernovae or revolving neutron stars.
The Japanese researchers analyzed data on a space tornado from the Suzaku X-ray astronomy satellite, which is equipped with highly sensitive measuring equipment, and found that there were collections of plasma at each end of the tornado. The groups of plasma, which were of similar size and shape, had a temperature of about 10 million degrees Celsius. The researchers then used a radio telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan's Nobeyama Radio Observatory in Nagano Prefecture to discover that molecular clouds existed at the same spots alongside these twin collections of plasma.
The researchers accordingly projected that there was a rotating black hole at the center of the tornado, and that a jet of high-energy particles emitted from each end created the spiral shape. They say that the ends of the jets collided with molecular clouds to create the twin groups of plasma. The results of the research are due to be published in a report of the Astronomical Society of Japan on Nov. 25.
The length of the tornado was about 140 light years, and its width around 30 to 40 light years, the researchers found. It was located near the center of the galaxy, about 35,000 light years away from Earth, they found.
"Next we want to confirm the existence of rotating black holes themselves using a new observation satellite due to be launched in 2014," Tsuru said.