Tech UPTechnologyThey detect how matter falls into a black hole...

They detect how matter falls into a black hole at 100,000 km / s

Like the Milky Way, the galaxy PG211 + 143, located about 1 billion light years from the solar system, has a supermassive black hole at its center. As is known, the gravitational field of these objects, which have masses millions of times greater than that of the Sun, is so intense that nothing, not even light, escapes from them. For this reason black holes cannot be observed. However, when the nearby matter interacts with them – usually interstellar gas clouds, but also isolated stars – very intense and luminous energetic phenomena are produced, so much so that they have become one of the most important reasons for studying the astronomers.

Well, a team of researchers coordinated by Ken Pounds, emeritus professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, has been able to capture for the first time how gas is precipitating into the aforementioned black hole in PG211 +143 to about 100,000 kilometers per second, the equivalent of 30% of the speed of light.

In their study, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society , Pounds and his collaborators point out that instead of falling directly into it, the gas usually rotates around the black hole, in increasingly closer and larger orbits velocity. This makes it also become hotter and brighter, a phenomenon that, according to a statement, “converts gravitational energy into radiation that astronomers can observe.” Of course, sometimes the orbit that the gas follows is not aligned with the rotation of the black hole, so matter can fall into them from any direction.

In free fall

Data from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory allowed them to determine that, precisely in this case, matter appeared to be falling directly into it at high speed, suggesting that it was not rotating around it. The finding supports the conclusions of a previous theoretical work, also promoted by experts from the University of Leicester, in which, from computer simulations, it was possible to observe how the gas rings could break, collide with each other, stop rotating. and make matter fall straight into the black hole.

“The galaxy that we have studied with XMM-Newton has a black hole of 40 million solar masses. It is a very bright object that is obviously well fed, ”says Pounds. “We have managed to follow the evolution of an accumulation of matter the size of the Earth for almost a whole day as it accelerated towards the black hole, at a third of the speed of light, before being swallowed up.”

Astronomers wonder if this may be more common than has been believed so far. Perhaps some of these supermassive black holes can accept much more gas than is estimated and thus increase their own mass much faster than usual. What’s more, this would explain why black holes that formed when the universe was still young gained enormous mass in a very short time.

Reference: An ultrafast inflow in the luminous Seyfert PG1211 + 143. KA Pounds et al. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2018) . DOI: 10.1093 / mnras / sty2359

Image: NASA

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