An extremely powerful long-lived superluminal ejection from the black hole MAXI J1820+070

J. S. Bright*, R. P. Fender, S. E. Motta, D. R.A. Williams, J. Moldon, R. M. Plotkin, J. C.A. Miller-Jones, I. Heywood, E. Tremou, R. Beswick, G. R. Sivakoff, S. Corbel, D. A.H. Buckley, J. Homan, E. Gallo, A. J. Tetarenko, T. D. Russell, D. A. Green, D. Titterington, P. A. WoudtR. P. Armstrong, P. J. Groot, A. Horesh, A. J.van der Horst, E. G. Körding, V. A. McBride, A. Rowlinson, R. A.M.J. Wijers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Black holes in binary systems execute patterns of outburst activity where two characteristic X-ray states are associated with different behaviours observed at radio wavelengths. The hard state is associated with radio emission indicative of a continuously replenished, collimated, relativistic jet, whereas the soft state is rarely associated with radio emission, and never continuously, implying the absence of a quasi-steady jet. Here we report radio observations of the black hole transient MAXI J1820+070 during its 2018 outburst. As the black hole transitioned from the hard to soft state, we observed an isolated radio flare, which, using high-angular-resolution radio observations, we connect with the launch of bipolar relativistic ejecta. This flare occurs as the radio emission of the core jet is suppressed by a factor of over 800. We monitor the evolution of the ejecta over 200 days and to a maximum separation of 10″, during which period it remains detectable due to in situ particle acceleration. Using simultaneous radio observations sensitive to different angular scales, we calculate an accurate estimate of energy content of the approaching ejection. This energy estimate is far larger than that derived from the state transition radio flare, suggesting a systematic underestimate of jet energetics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)697-703
Number of pages7
JournalNature Astronomy
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
J.S.B. acknowledges the support of a Science and Technologies Facilities Council Studentship. E.T. acknowledges financial support from the UnivEarthS Labex programme of Sorbonne Paris Cité (ANR-10-LABX-0023 and ANR-11-IDEX-0005-02). D.A.H.B. acknowledges support by the National Research Foundation. P.A.W. acknowledges support from the NRF and UCT. J.C.A.M.-J. is the recipient of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT140101082), funded by the Australian government. A.H. acknowledges that this research was supported by a grant from the GIF, the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. I.H. and D.R.A.W. acknowledge support from the Oxford Hintze Centre for Astrophysical Surveys, which is funded through generous support from the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation. J.M. acknowledges financial support from the State Agency for Research of the Spanish MCIU through the ‘Center of Excellence Severo Ochoa’ award to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (SEV-2017-0709) and from the grant RTI2018-096228-B-C31 (MICIU/FEDER, EU). The MeerKAT telescope is operated by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is a facility of the National Research Foundation, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology. We thank the staff of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory for their invaluable assistance in the commissioning, maintenance and operation of AMI, which is supported by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. We acknowledge support from the European Research Council under grant ERC-2012-StG-307215 LODESTONE. We thank the Swift team for performing observations promptly on short notice. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. e-MERLIN is a National Facility operated by the University of Manchester at Jodrell Bank Observatory on behalf of STFC. We acknowledge the use of the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) data-intensive research cloud for data processing. IDIA is a South African university partnership involving the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria and the University of the Western Cape. We thank the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland for support and hospitality for the team meeting ‘Looking at the disc–jet coupling from different angles: inclination dependence of black-hole accretion observables’.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


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