Science 12 Jul 2019 Supermassive black h ...

Supermassive black hole that should not be there spotted

Published Jul 12, 2019, 2:56 pm IST
Updated Jul 12, 2019, 3:00 pm IST
A disk of material surrounding the black hole has been discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.
This particular black hole is 130 million light-years from Earth is not in a good shape.
 This particular black hole is 130 million light-years from Earth is not in a good shape.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a wonderful and it is excellent at spotting objects that are located in distant reaches of space. NASA and ESA, who operate the telescope have discovered a disc of material around the black hole that according to human knowledge of black holes, should not even be there. Black holes are extremely difficult to locate however, they are spotted thanks to the galaxies that surround them.

CNET reports that at the centre of galaxy 3147 which is a spiral galaxy there is a supermassive black hole. Usually, this isn’t a cause for concern because many galaxies hide supermassive black holes. These black holes are located at the centre with astronomers spot them doing strange things often. However, as is the case with this black hole, which has been spotted by the NASA team that’s using the Hubble Space Telescope, should not exist.


As reported by CNET, “The mysterious black hole, weighing about 250 million times more than the sun, is detailed in astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in its July 11 publication. It's puzzling astronomers because it is encircled by a thin disk, known as an accretion disk, containing debris and gas rapidly racing around the hole's edge.” And, this disk should not be there. 

 This particular black hole is 130 million light-years from Earth is not in a good shape. There is not enough material being captured by its massive gravitational field which shows that the black hole is starving. Black holes of this nature don’t usually form disks of material; but this particular black hole does have material that’s circling around it at 10 per cent the speed of light.

Black holes in certain types of galaxies like NGC 3147 are malnourished because there is not enough gravitationally captured material to feed them regularly. So, the thin haze of infalling material puffs up like a donut rather than flattening out in a pancake-shaped disk. Therefore, it is very puzzling why there is a thin disk encircling a starving black hole in NGC 3147 that mimics much more powerful disks found in extremely active galaxies with engorged, monster black holes.

Ari Laor of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology located in Haifa, Israel explains, “We thought this was the best candidate to confirm that below certain luminosities, the accretion disk doesn't exist anymore. What we saw was something completely unexpected. We found gas in motion producing features we can explain only as being produced by material rotating in a thin disk very close to the black hole.”

Lead author Stefano Bianch says, “It's the same type of disk we see in objects that are 1,000 or even 100,000 times more luminous. The predictions of current models for gas dynamics in very faint active galaxies clearly failed."

The disk is so deeply embedded in the black hole's intense gravitational field that the light from the gas disk is modified, according to Einstein’s theories of relativity, giving astronomers a unique look at the dynamic processes close to a black hole.

Hubble clocked material whirling around the black hole as moving at more than 10% of the speed of light. At those 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 side (an effect called relativistic beaming).

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