After Watching a Black Hole Swallow a Star, Scientists Add a Whole New Dimension to Our Understanding | The Weather Channel – Articles de The Weather Channel

This illustration shows a luminous flux of matter from a star, torn to shreds as it was devoured by a supermassive black hole. The feeding black hole is surrounded by a ring of dust, much like a toddler’s plate is surrounded by crumbs after a meal.

(NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Much of what happens in the vast, dark cosmic universe is hidden from the eyes of astronomers and even Earth-bound telescopes. Gaining insight into the activities that take place millions and billions of light years away is bound to be a tedious task. Therefore, observing even one of these events can open new avenues for understanding the mysterious universe.

Recently, a team of scientists from the United States, Israel and the Netherlands got a glimpse of how black holes nibble at stars. And these cosmic monsters are incredibly messy eaters, splashing traces of what they eat, much like a toddler.

Understanding black holes using X-rays

Scientists speculate that a class of black holes known as intermediate mass black holes exists in abundance in the hearts of several galaxies. But little is known about them, and this event gave us a glimpse of one of these black holes.

“The fact that we were able to catch this black hole as it devoured a star provides a remarkable opportunity to observe what would otherwise be invisible. Not only that, by analyzing the flare, we were able to better understand this elusive category of black. black holes, which may well represent the majority of black holes in the center of galaxies, ”explains co-author Ann Zabludoff, professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona.

Scientifically speaking, such a violent act is called a “tidal disturbance event,” where a black hole engulfs an unlucky star that ventures too close. The gravitational forces of the black hole create intense tides that shatter the star into a flow of gas, resulting in a huge release of energy that even eclipses the entire galaxy in some cases. Such events emit brilliant X-rays, and scientists have been fortunate enough to keep a close watch on such a cosmic part, giving them new perspectives.

The team studied the x-rays emitted by the volatile cosmic event dubbed J2150. Thanks to this, scientists were able to make the first measurements of the mass and rotation of the black hole.

Mass and rotation of the black hole

When a star ventures too close to a black hole, gravitational forces create intense tides that shatter the star into a flow of gas, resulting in a cataclysmic phenomenon known as the tidal disturbance event.  Huge amounts of energy are released, causing the tidal disturbance to eclipse its galaxy in some cases.  (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Smith (USRA / GESTAR))

A representation of a tidal disturbance event

(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Smith USRA / GESTAR))

While observations confirmed that the x-rays were emitted when a black hole of intermediate mass engulfed the star, tracking calculations revealed that this type of black hole is likely to have a low mass of around 10,000. times greater than that of the Sun. The team used the information from the x-ray data and compared it with other theoretical models.

Another interesting discovery was the rotation of the mid-size black hole. Surprisingly, scientists found the rotation to be very fast, vital information for understanding how black holes develop. They believe that intermediate-mass black holes pave the way for supermassive black holes, which could be one of the reasons for the massive size of black holes.

On the other hand, the spin also makes it possible to understand the dark matter surrounding black holes. Dark matter is one of the biggest puzzles because it is believed to hold most of the matter in this universe. They are made up of particles, which none of the Earth’s experiments or equipment has been able to detect.

One of the study’s co-authors, Nicholas Stone, explains, “If these particles exist and have masses in a certain range, they will prevent a black hole of intermediate mass from spinning rapidly. Yet the J2150 black hole is spinning fast. Thus, our spin measurement excludes a large class of ultralight boson theories, showing the value of black holes as alien laboratories for particle physics. “

The team said more observations are needed to fill the gap in understanding black holes and their associated phenomena.

The results of this study were published in The Journal of Astrophysics last month and is accessible here.

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