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Astronomers Discover a Disc Very Close to Starving Black Hole

The presence of the black hole disc in such a low-luminosity active galaxy has astronomers surprised

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Astronomers, Disc, Black Hole
The unexpected thin disc of material was found encircling a supermassive black hole at the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147. Pixabay

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a disc very close to a starving black hole – something that should not be there – based on current astronomical theories.

The unexpected thin disc of material was found encircling a supermassive black hole at the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away, according to a study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The presence of the black hole disc in such a low-luminosity active galaxy has astronomers surprised.

Black holes in certain types of galaxies such as NGC 3147 are considered to be starving as there is insufficient gravitationally captured material to feed them regularly.

Astronomers, Disc, Black Hole
Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a disc very close to a starving black hole. Pixabay

It is therefore puzzling that there is a thin disc encircling a starving black hole that mimics the much larger discs found in extremely active galaxies, the study said.

The disc’s material was measured by Hubble to be whirling around the black hole at more than 10 per cent of the speed of light.

At such extreme velocities, the gas appears to brighten as it travels toward Earth on one side, and dims as it speeds away from our planet on the other. This effect is known as relativistic beaming.

Hubble’s observations also show that the gas is embedded so deep in a gravitational well that light is struggling to escape, and therefore appears stretched to redder wavelengths. The black hole’s mass is around 250 million times that of the Sun.

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“This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how we see the photons of light,” explained the study’s first author Stefano Bianchi of Roma Tre University in Italy.

Of particular interest, this disc of material circling the black hole offers researchers a unique opportunity to test Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity.

“We’ve never seen the effects of both general and special relativity in visible light with this much clarity,” said Marco Chiaberge of the European Space Agency, and the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland. (IANS)

Next Story

Researchers Develop AI Tool to Help Astronomers Identify Galaxy Clusters Quickly

The study was presented at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy meeting at Lancaster University

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The decision is also intended to make image forensics understandable for everyone. Pixabay

Researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered tool that has been trained to “look” at colour images and identify galaxy clusters quickly.

The “Deep-CEE” – Deep Learning for Galaxy Cluster Extraction and Evaluation – model is based on neural networks, which are designed to mimic the way a human brain learns to recognise objects by activating specific neurons when visualising distinctive patterns and colours.

Matthew Chan, a PhD student at Lancaster University in Britain trained the AI by repeatedly showing it examples of known, labelled objects in images until the algorithm is able to learn to associate objects on its own.

Then the researchers ran a pilot study to test the algorithm’s ability to identify and classify galaxy clusters in images that contain many other astronomical objects.

“Data mining techniques such as deep learning will help us to analyse the enormous outputs of modern telescopes” said John Stott from Lancaster University.

“We expect our method to find thousands of clusters never seen before by science,” Stott said.

Galaxy clusters represent the most extreme environments that galaxies can live in and studying them can help us better understand dark matter and dark energy.

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“Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society.” VOA

New state-of-the-art telescopes have enabled astronomers to observe wider and deeper than ever before, such as studying the large-scale structure of the universe and mapping its vast undiscovered content.

By automating the discovery process, scientists can quickly scan sets of images, and return precise predictions with minimal human interaction.

This will be essential for analysing data in future. The upcoming Large Synoptic Survey telescope (LSST) sky survey (due to come online in 2021) will image the skies of the entire southern hemisphere, generating an estimated 15 TB of data every night.

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“We have successfully applied Deep-CEE to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey,” said Chan.

“Ultimately, we will run our model on revolutionary surveys such as the LSST that will probe wider and deeper into regions of the Universe never before explored,” Chan added.

The study was presented at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy meeting at Lancaster University. (IANS)