According to researchers from the University of Arizona in the U.S. something that young children have in common and what black holes is that they both eat disorderly, leaving ample evidence of food traces.
(You may be interested: Colombian who recorded the stratosphere broke a world record)
But while one may leave behind pasta or yogurt splatters, the other creates a sequel of mind-boggling proportions. When a black hole devours a star, it produces what astronomers call a “tidal disruption event.” The star’s destruction is accompanied by a burst of radiation that can outshine the combined light from each star in the black hole’s host galaxy for months and even years.
In an article published in The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astronomers led by Sixiang Wen, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory, used the X-rays emitted by a tidal disruption event known as J2150 to perform the first measurements of both the mass and the spin of the black hole.
This hole is of a particular type, of intermediate mass, which has eluded observation for a long time.
“The fact that we were able to catch this black hole while it was devouring a star offers an extraordinary opportunity to observe what would otherwise be invisible,” said Ann Zabludoff, a professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the paper. “By analyzing the flare, we were able to better understand this elusive category of black holes, which may well represent the majority of those found at the centers of galaxies.”
(Also: 2021, the year when the most satellites have been launched into space)
According to information released by the university, dozens of tidal disruption events have been seen in the centers of large galaxies that host supermassive black holes, and some have also been observed in the centers of small galaxies that could contain holes. intermediate blacks. However, previous data had never been detailed enough to show that a single tidal disruption eruption was driven by an intermediate black hole.
“Thanks to modern astronomical observations, we know that the centers of almost all galaxies that are similar to or larger in size than our Milky Way are home to central supermassive black holes,” said study co-author Nicholas Stone, a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University. of Jerusalem. “These giants range in size from 1 million to 10 billion times the mass of our Sun, and they become powerful sources of electromagnetic radiation when too much interstellar gas falls in their vicinity.”
The mass of these black holes is closely correlated with the total mass of their host galaxies; the largest are home to the largest supermassive black holes.
“We still know very little about the existence of black holes at the centers of galaxies smaller than the Milky Way,” said co-author Peter Jonker of Radboud University and the SRON Space Research Institute, both in the Netherlands. “Due to the limitations of the observation, it is a challenge to discover central black holes much smaller than 1 million solar masses.”
Despite their presumed abundance, the origins of supermassive black holes remain unknown, and many different theories are currently competing to explain them, according to Jonker. Intermediate mass black holes could be the seeds from which they grow.
“So if we get a better handle on how many authentic intermediate black holes there are, this can help determine which theories of supermassive black hole formation are correct,” he said.
Its relationship with dark matter
Even more exciting, according to Zabludoff, is the measurement of the spin of J2150 that the group was able to obtain that has clues to how black holes grow and possibly particle physics.
(Also: NASA’s Viper rover will land in 2023 at the south pole of the Moon)
This black hole has a fast spin, but not the fastest possible spin, Zabludoff explained, raising the question of how the black hole ends up with a spin in this range.
“It’s possible that the black hole formed that way and not much changed since then, or that two intermediate-mass black holes recently merged to form this one,” he said. “We know that the spin we measured excludes scenarios in which the black hole grows for a long time by constantly consuming gas or by many fast gas bubbles coming from random directions.”
Additionally, gyro measurement allows astrophysicists to test hypotheses about the nature of the spin. dark matter, which is believed to make up most of the matter in the universe and may consist of unknown elementary particles that have not yet been seen in laboratory experiments. Among the candidates are hypothetical particles known as ultralight bosons, Stone explained.
“If those particles exist and have masses in a certain range, they will prevent an intermediate mass black hole from spinning rapidly,” he said. “However, the one in J2150 spins fast. Therefore, our measurement rules out a wide class of ultralight boson theories, showing the value of black holes as extraterrestrial laboratories for particle physics.”
More Science News
The Colombian scientist who studies the origin of dwarf galaxies
The eruption of the Spanish island La Palma, a window to the geological past