An international research team has discovered an active, super-mass-rich black hole in the centre of a galaxy and, while that's nothing special, they have found that this one has a nucleus generating a jet that staggers like a spinning top.
The timescale of this jet is about 22 years, the astronomers said.
The study, led by Silke Britzen of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, states that the bizarre movement of this galaxy jet is called 'precession' and can explain the fluctuating radiation of the galaxy, labelled OJ 287.
It's believed the research could also provide some key to understanding the variability of active galaxy nuclei.
Until now, despite decades of radio observations of many jet sources and many sophisticated studies, the jets as seen in galaxy OJ 287 have remained enigmatic.
However, Britzen used a clever observational technique to monitor the jet of OJ 287 close to its launching site, near the central black hole, in detail.
This technique involved using radio telescopes around the globe in order to construct a "virtual monster telescope of Earth size diameter", say the scientists. That virtual telescope was able to zoom into the very centres of galaxies and to observe jets close to the central black hole with super high resolutions.
"It's all geometry and deterministic. No magic involved, so far," Britzen said. "This offers a unique opportunity to understand the jets and their potential origin in the immediate vicinity of the black hole.
"This jet really serves as a 'Rosetta Stone' for us and will allow [better] understanding [of] jets and their active black holes."
Britzen and her team are convinced that the precession-scenario can also explain the 130 years of optical flaring of this source, but agree that more data and more work are required for a final confirmation.
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