"We've seen something completely unexpected," said astronomers, who found NASA's Hubble Space Telescope a mysterious thin disk of material that furiously revolved around a supermassive black hole in the heart of a magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 31
"We have never seen the effects of both general and special relativity in visible light with so much clarity," said Marco Chiaberge, associate research scientist at the Institute of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. Chiaberge, who is also a member of the European Space Agency and the Institute for Space Telescope Research in Baltimore, is a member of the team that conducted the Hubble study Black Hole
"This is a fascinating view of a disk near a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the attraction affect the appearance of light photons. We can understand the data only if we take into account the theories of relativity, "said the study's lead author, Stefano Bianchi of the Università degli Studi Roma Tre.
Astronomers originally selected this galaxy to validate accepted models for low luminosity active galaxies with black holes on a lean material diet. Models predict that an accretion disk forms when abundant gas is trapped by the strong attraction of a black hole. This infallible matter emits much light and produces a brilliant beacon, called a quasar, on the best-nourished black holes. If less material is drawn into the disk, it starts to disintegrate, becomes weaker and changes the structure.
This is an artistic representation of the supermassive black hole that is located at the core of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147. Light from gas, due to the heavy gravity of the heavy Black hole is included. The black hole is deeply embedded in its gravitational field, as shown by the green grid that represents the warped space. The gravitational field is so strong that it is difficult for the light to climb out, a principle that is described in Einstein's Theory of General Theory of Relativity.
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Black holes in certain types of galaxies – such as NGC 3147 where the disk is located – are malnourished because there is insufficiently gravitationally captured material to power them regularly. As a result, the thin haze of infalling material swells up like a donut instead of flattening in a pancake-shaped disk.
Therefore, scientists find it surprising that a thin disk surrounds a starving black hole in NGC "We thought this was the best candidate to confirm that the accretion disk no longer exists under certain magnitudes," Ari said Laor of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. "What we saw was something completely unexpected. We have discovered that gas in motion creates features that we can only explain as a material that rotates in a thin disk near the black hole.
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The disk is so deeply embedded in the intense gravitational field of the black hole that the light from the gas disk is modified according to Einstein's theories of relativity, giving astronomers a unique view of the dynamics obtained in the processes Close to a black hole.
Hubble clocked material that rotated more than 10% of the speed of light around the black hole. At these extreme speeds, the gas appears to brighten as it moves toward the earth on one side, and it darkens as it moves away from our planet on the other side. This effect is called relativistic rays. Hubble's observations also show that the gas is anchored in the gravitational hole so that it is difficult for the light to climb out and therefore extend to redder wavelengths. The mass of the black hole is about 250 million suns.
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Using the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), the researchers observed matter whirling deep in the disk. A spectrograph is a diagnostic tool that splits the light of an object into many individual wavelengths to determine its speed, temperature, and other properties with very high accuracy. The astronomers needed the sharp resolution of STIS to isolate the faint light from the black hole region and block out contaminating starlight.
"Without Hubble, we would not have been able to see this because the black hole region has low luminosity," said Chiaberge. "The luminosity of the stars in the galaxy outshines everything at its core. If you observe it from the ground, you are dominated by the brightness of the stars, which drowns out the weak emission of the nucleus.
The team hopes to use Hubble to search for other very compact low-power data carriers black holes in similarly active galaxies.
The team's work appeared on Thursday in the Monthly Bulletins of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The Daily Galaxy about Johns Hopkins.
Photo credit: NASA, ESA, AND A. FEILD AND L. HUSTAK (STSCI)