Astronomers see black hole waking up

2015-07-09 22:32
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Hamburg - A black hole awakening out of dormancy has been observed for the first time, say scientists led by Megan Argo at Britain's Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics.

A black hole is a type of star that is so heavy that instead of emitting light it sucks it in as well as everything else that falls into its gravitational pull.

The black hole observed by Argo's scientists has increased hundreds of times over in just a few months, for the first time shedding light on how the activity of a so-called supermassive black hole develops.

The team of astronomers are to present their observations at the annual National Astronomy Meeting of Britain's Royal Astronomical Society taking place at the Llandudno, north Wales.

Approximately 42 million light years away in the polar-ring galaxy NGC 660 in the constellation Pisces, the object is designated supermassive because it contains a mass estimated at 20 million suns.

As a rule, supermassive black holes - assumed to be at the centre of every large galaxy including our own Milky Way Galaxy - are usually in a sleep mode, and are discovered mainly through their immense gravitation.

Only when the black hole swallows a large quantity of material does it become active. So much energy is released in this process that the material is brightly illuminated before it disappears in the black hole and a portion of it is emitted in the form of two sharply focussed shafts of light, called jets, into outer space.

Polar-ring galaxy NGC 660 was observed by radio telescopes suddenly becoming several hundred times brighter in 2012. The team led by Argo subsequently analysed archive photos of the galaxy and finally interconnected several radio telescopes between Britain, South Africa and China into a giant virtual telescope to investigate the activity more precisely.

These high-definition observations showed a new, extremely bright radio source exactly at the point where the supermassive black hole - was expected.

Read more on:    uk  |  space

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