May 27, 2024

Black hole surprises with 'hiccups' – 'We thought we knew a lot'

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The black hole behaves very unusually, attracting the attention of the research team. This finds a surprising answer.

BOSTON – Black holes are mysterious celestial bodies. Their incredibly strong gravity attracts everything that approaches them and does not allow anything to escape. Not even light can escape from a black hole, which is why you can't see mysterious objects. Only with the help of tricks have researchers and telescopes been able to image the shadows of two black holes, most recently in polarized light that revealed strong magnetic fields at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Now another research team has discovered a black hole behaving very strangely. One said the object, which is located at the center of a galaxy about 800 million light-years away, was experiencing a “hiccup”. notice. It would suddenly erupt and release clouds of gas every 8.5 days before calming down again. Research knows a lot about black holes, but the fact that a black hole has a “hiccup” is still unknown. What could be behind it?

The black hole has a 'hiccup' – researchers claim to have found an explanation

And in studying that In the specialized magazine Advancement of science published The research team describes its findings. Therefore, the regular explosions are likely to be caused by a second, smaller black hole, which is “buzzing” around the central supermassive black hole. Every 8.5 days, this smaller object is expected to eject material from the accretion disk surrounding the large black hole.

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What is a cumulative disk?

In astrophysics, an accretion disk is a disk of gas orbiting an object and transporting matter toward the center. In the case of a black hole, the matter that “feeds” the black hole is inside it.

Stars can also be surrounded by accretion disks in which planets form over time.

“We thought we knew a lot about black holes.”

A black hole falls into the accretion disk of another black hole – This new idea challenges the previous picture of a black hole's accretion disks. Until now, researchers have assumed that these disks are relatively uniform gas disks orbiting the black hole. But new research shows that accretion disks likely contain other black holes or even entire stars.

“We thought we knew a lot about black holes, but this shows us there are a lot more things they can do,” says study author Dheeraj Basham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “We think there will be many more systems like this. We just need to collect more data to find them.”

A black hole 800 million light-years away is experiencing a “hiccup.” A research team has found the solution: It orbits a smaller black hole that is making its way through the accretion disk and releasing clouds of gas in the process. (Artist's impression) © José Luis Olivares, MIT

The black hole makes its host galaxy noticeably brighter

The “Hiccup” black hole was originally discovered by the ASAS-SN Automated Telescope Network in December 2020, just as it was undergoing an explosion that made its host galaxy noticeably brighter. Basham discovered the galaxy and soon realized that the amount of energy released had a rhythm of 8.5 days. “I was confused about what this meant, because this pattern didn't fit anything we knew about these systems,” Basham recalls.

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The researcher sought the help of other experts and observed the strange behavior of the black hole. It turns out that the galaxy it's in was relatively quiet before December 2020. This month, a third object – perhaps a star – must have come very close to the black hole. The object was torn apart by the black hole's gravity, a process astronomers call “spaghetti.” Material from the torn star ended up in the accretion disk, causing it to shine even brighter.

A black hole devours a star – and a smaller black hole orbits it

According to the researchers, the black hole devoured stellar remnants for four months, while the second, smaller black hole moved regularly across the accretion disk, ensuring the observed rhythm of 8.5 days. Using simulations, the research team tested this theory and concluded that it must be a new type of David and Goliath system, a small, intermediate-mass black hole orbiting a supermassive black hole.

“This is a completely different beast,” Basham says. “It doesn't fit with everything we know about these systems. We see signs of objects entering and passing through the disk at different angles, which challenges the traditional picture of a simple gaseous disk around black holes.” The researcher adds: “We believe that there are a large number of such systems.” (unpaid invoice)