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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

Chinese Researchers Spot Monster Black Hole Bigger Than Sun

Chinese team spots monster black hole which is 70 times bigger than Sun

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Black Hole
A team of Chinese scientists spotted a black hole that is 70 times larger than the sun. (Representational Image Only). Wikimedia Commons

A team led by Chinese researchers has spotted a monster black hole with a mass 70 times greater than Sun — toppling the earlier assumption that the mass of an individual black hole in our Galaxy is no more than 20 times that of Sun.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is estimated to contain 100 million stellar black holes — cosmic bodies formed by the collapse of massive stars and so dense even light can’t escape.

The team, headed by Professor LIU Jifeng of the National Astronomical Observatory of China of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), spotted a stellar black hole with a mass 70 times greater than the Sun.

The monster black hole is located 15 thousand light-years from Earth and has been named “LB-1” by the researchers in a paper reported in the journal Nature.

“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our Galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,” said LIU.

“We thought that very massive stars with the chemical composition typical of our Galaxy must shed most of their gas in powerful stellar winds, as they approach the end of their life. Therefore, they should not leave behind such a massive remnant,” he explained.

Spotting black hole
The monster black hole is located 15 thousand light-years from Earth. (Representational Image Only). Wikimedia Commons

Until just a few years ago, stellar black holes could only be discovered when they gobbled up gas from a companion star.

The vast majority of stellar black holes in our Galaxy are not engaged in a cosmic banquet, though, and thus don’t emit revealing X-rays.

As a result, only about two dozen Galactic stellar black holes have been well identified and measured.

To counter this limitation, LIU and collaborators surveyed the sky with China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST).

After the initial discovery, the world’s largest optical telescopes – Spain’s 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias and the 10-m Keck I telescope in the US – were used to determine the system’s physical parameters.
The results were nothing short of fantastic: a star eight times heavier than the Sun was seen orbiting a 70-solar-mass black hole, every 79 days.

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The direct sighting of LB-1 proves that this population of over-massive stellar black holes exists even in our own backyard.

“This discovery forces us to re-examine our models of how stellar-mass black holes form,” said LIGO Director Professor David Reitze from University of Florida in the US. (IANS)

One response to “Chinese Researchers Spot Monster Black Hole Bigger Than Sun”

  1. The designer of this awe-inspiring universe has many many surprises ‘up his sleeve.’ Scientists will yet discover more and more amazing revelations as they research and study our unfathomable ‘miracle’ called the universe. The ancient scriptures says: Look! These are just the fringes of his ways;Only a faint whisper has been heard of him! So who can understand his mighty thunder?”