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Hubble discovers a mysterious black hole disc



 Hubble discovers a mysterious black hole disc
Artist's discovery of the unique thin disc of material circling and a supermassive black hole in the spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away. Credit: ESA / Hubble, M. Kornmesser
            

Astronomers using the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope have observed an unlikely thin disc of material encircling and a supermassive black hole in the spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away.
                                               


The presence of the black hole disc in such a low-luminosity active galaxy has surprised astronomers. Black holes in certain types of galaxies such as NGC 3147 are considered to be starving as there is insufficient gravitationally captured material to feed them regularly. It is therefore puzzling that there is a thin disc encircling and a foaming black hole that mimics the much larger discs found in extremely active galaxies

Of particular interest, this disc of material circling the black hole offers a unique opportunity to test Albert Einstein's theories of relativity. The disc is so deeply embedded in the intense gravitational field of the black hole that the light from the gas disc is altered, according to these theories, giving astronomers a unique peek at the dynamic processes near a black hole

"We've never seen the effects of both general and special relativity in visible light with this much clarity, "said team member Marco Chiaberge of AURA for ESA, STScI and Johns Hopkins University

The disc's material was measured by Hubble to be whirling around black hole at more than 10% of the speed of light. At such extreme speeds, the gas appears to brighten as it travels to Earth on one side, and dims as it speeds away from our planet on the other. This effect is known as relativistic beaming. Hubble's observations also show that the gas is embedded so deep into a gravitational well that light is struggling to escape, and therefore appears stretched to redder wavelengths.

 A Hubble Space Telescope image of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147 appears next to an artist's illustration of the supermassive black hole residing at the galaxy's core. Credit: Hubble Image: NASA, ESA, S. Bianchi (Università degli Studi Roma Tre University), A. Laor (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology), and M. Chiaberge (ESA, STScI, and JHU); Illustration: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild and L. Hustak (STScI)
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<p> "This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull affect how we see the photons of light," explained the first author of the study, Stefano Bianchi , of the Università degli Studi Roma Tre in Italy. </p>
<p> In order to study the subject matter deep inside this disc, researchers used the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument. This diagnostic tool divides the light from an object into its many individual wavelengths to determine the object's speed, temperature, and other characteristics at very high precision. STIS was integral to effectively observing the low-luminosity region around the black hole, blocking the galaxy's brilliant light. </p>
<p> The astronomers initially selected this galaxy to validate accepted models about low-luminosity active galaxies: those with malnourished black holes. These models predict that discs of material should form when large amounts of gas are trapped by a heavy gravity pull of a black hole, subsequently emitting lots of light and producing a brilliant beacon called a quasar </p><div><script async src=

"The type of disc we see is a scaled-down quasar that we did not expect to exist, "Bianchi explained. "

 Hubble discovers a mysterious black hole disc
Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Bianchi (Università degli Studi Roma Tre University), A. Laor (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology) and M. Chiaberge (ESA, STScI, and JHU)
            

The team hopes to use Hubble to hunt for other very compact discs around low-luminosity black holes in similar active galaxies

The team's paper will appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society .
                                                                                                                        


Hubble observes tiny galaxy with big heart


More information:
Stefano Bianchi et al. HST unveils and compact mildly relativistic broad-line region in the candidate true type 2 NGC 3147, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters (2019). DOI: 10.1093 / mnrasl / slz080

Provided by
ESA / Hubble Information Center

Citation :
                                                 Hubble discovers the mysterious black hole disc (2019, July 11)
                                                 retrieved 11 July 2019
                                                 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-hubble-mysterious-black-hole-disc.html
                                            

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