Space

Hubble spots "impossible" structure around a malnourished black hole

Hubble spots "impossible" stru...
The small, malnourished black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 3147 has surprised astronomers with its disk of dust and gas
The small, malnourished black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 3147 has surprised astronomers with its disk of dust and gas
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The small, malnourished black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 3147 has surprised astronomers with its disk of dust and gas
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The small, malnourished black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 3147 has surprised astronomers with its disk of dust and gas

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered structures around a black hole that were thought to be impossible. A small, "malnourished" black hole was found to have a flat disk of material circling it – a feature thought unique to supermassive black holes. This disc is also so close to the black hole that it's distorting and stretching the light itself.

While black holes are notoriously … well, black, they do often appear to give off light. This usually happens as disks of dust and gas swirl around them like water going down a drain, heating up the material and causing it to shine bright. But this is thought to only occur with larger black holes that have huge discs of material feeding them.

Smaller black holes usually stay fairly shrimpy and malnourished because there isn't enough material falling in and feeding them. The accretion disk of material fades away, leaving these systems looking pretty dim through telescopes.

At a glance, the spiral galaxy NGC 3147 looked like a textbook example. Located about 130 million light-years away, the galaxy's central black hole is relatively small – "only" about 250 million times the mass of the Sun – and its low luminosity suggested there was no disk to be seen. But when researchers on the new study examined the system through the Hubble telescope, they were in for a surprise.

"We thought this was the best candidate to confirm that below certain luminosities, the accretion disk doesn't exist anymore," says Ari Laor, an author of the study. "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."

NGC 3147 turned out to basically be a miniature version of larger systems, the brightest and most active of which are called quasars. That calls into question some of the models that astronomers have long thought to be true.

"The type of disk we see is a scaled-down quasar that we did not expect to exist," says Stefano Bianchi, first author of the study. "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 other interesting thing about NGC 3147 is that this disk is very close to the black hole, which produces a few strange quirks. The intense gravitational forces at that range are accelerating the material to over 10 percent of the speed of light. To us the light appears red, because it's having such a hard time escaping the region that the gravity is stretching out the wavelengths.

The team plans to use Hubble to search for more of these kinds of systems. That way, astronomers can begin to build new models that explain the weird new discovery.

The paper was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Source: Hubble

5 comments
rajaram
Wish we recast models adopting a hypothesis that light can have different constant speeds in different realms to get less anomalous situations . May be nature is conveying need to correct our fixed notions forcing local constants as universally true.
Reid Barnes
How far must they go to perpetuate a gravitational model for cosmology based on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity? Belief in everything from dark matter and ‘black holes’ to dark energy and the accelerating expansion of the universe is propagated using Einstein’s theory. Has it become a religion masquerading as science? Einstein claimed that the bending of light passing near the Sun, famously measured by Arthur Eddington during a solar eclipse, and also that the precession of the orbit of Mercury around the Sun were due to space-time deformation as characterized by his theory. In essence, he claimed that the explanation for the phenomena is that the geometry near massive objects is not Euclidean. Einstein said that “in the presence of a gravitational field, the geometry is not Euclidean.” But if that non-Euclidean geometry is self-contradicting, then Einstein’s explanation and his theory cannot be correct. How can it be correct if the title of the Facebook Note, “Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity Is Based on Self-contradicting Non-Euclidean Geometry,” is a true statement?
GeneWaldenmaier
These a fantastic images from a fantastic telescope that I worked on. Please remember, all images from the telescope are from B&W cameras and of color filters to define the color spectrum upon each pixel. The Hubble Space Telescope was developed in the 1970's with custom built cameras, having CCD chips with 800x800 pixels, or 640,000 pixels. Higher resolution is achieved by multiple exposures and then with computer enhancement.
Gregg Eshelman
@GeneWaldenmaier Hubble's current Wide Field Camera 3 features two UV/visible detecting CCDs, each 2048×4096 pixels, and a separate IR detector of 1024×1024, capable of receiving infrared radiation up to 1700 nm. The Wide Field Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys' detector consists of two butted 2048x4096 sensors. The High Resolution Channel of the ACS has one 1024x1024 sensor but has been out of action since 2007 due to various electrical faults the ground crew has been unable to remotely fix by switching together parts of the Side 1 and Side 2 electronics, as they've done to keep the HRC working.
amazed W1
Much in sympathy with Reid Barnes, we don't know what light and outer space are, whatever the experts say. Why does light have a limiting velocity, or is empty space not empty as far as radiation transfer is concerned? The corpuscles moving with wave motion is a useful model, but it presupposes a medium and as my younger daughter asks, why therefor does its intensity not attenuate to zero after billions of miles? Not easy to answer at second thoughts. And why do plasmas retain there shape and not diffuse instantly into the totally empty void, if it is empty? And what about the statement in the report that something is moving faster than the speed of light, is it just like the speed of the location at which two not quite parallel electromagnetic wave fronts meet?