Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rapid changes point to origin of ultra-fast black hole 'burps'

02.03.2017

Temperature swings of black hole winds measured for the first time

Gas outflows are common features of active supermassive black holes that reside in the center of large galaxies. Millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun, these black holes feed on the large disks of gas that swirl around them. Occasionally the black holes eat too much and burp out an ultra-fast wind, or outflow. These winds may have a strong influence on regulating the growth of the host galaxy by clearing the surrounding gas away and suppressing star formation.


This is an artist impression illustrating a supermassive black hole with X-ray emission emanating from its inner region (pink) and ultrafast winds streaming from the surrounding disk (purple).

Credit: The European Space Agency (ESA)

Scientists have now made the most detailed observation yet of such an outflow, coming from an active galaxy named IRAS 13224-3809. The outflow's temperature changed on time scales of less than an hour, which is hundreds of times faster than ever seen before. The rapid fluctuations in the outflow's temperature indicated that the outflow was responding to X-ray emissions from the accretion disk, a dense zone of gas and other materials that surrounds the black hole.

The new observations are published in the journal Nature on March 2, 2017.

"Although we have seen these outflows before, this observation was the first time we were able to see the launching of the gases being connected with changes in the luminosity of black holes," said Erin Kara, a postdoctoral researcher in astronomy at the University of Maryland and a co-author of the study.

Scientists made these measurements using two space telescopes, NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) telescope and the European Space Agency's (ESA) XMM-Newton. To capture the variability of these signals, scientists focused the XMM-Newton on the black hole for 17 days in a row, and observed the black hole with NuSTAR for six days.

To measure the temperatures of these winds, scientists studied X-rays coming from the edge of the black hole. As they travel towards Earth, these X-rays pass through the outflows. Elements such as iron or magnesium present in the outflows can absorb specific parts of the X-ray spectrum, creating signature "dips" in the X-ray signal. By observing these dips, called absorption features, astronomers can learn what elements exist in the wind.

The team noticed that the absorption features disappeared and reappeared in the span of a few hours. The researchers concluded that the X-rays were heating up the winds to millions of degrees Celsius, at which point the winds became incapable of absorbing any more X-rays.

The observations that the outflows appear to be linked with X-rays, and that both are so highly variable, provide possible clues for locating where exactly the X-rays and outflows originate.

"The radiating gas flows into black holes are most variable at their centers," Kara said. "Because we saw such rapid variability in the winds, we know that the emission is coming from very close to the black hole itself, and because we observed that the wind was also changing on rapid time scales, it must also be coming from very close to the black hole."

To further study galaxy formation and black holes, Chris Reynolds, a professor of astronomy at UMD and a co-PI on the project, noted the need for more detailed data and observations.

"We need to observe this black hole with better and more spectrometers, so we can get more details about these outflows," Reynolds said. "For instance, we don't know whether the outflow is composed of one or multiple sheets of gas. And we need to observe on multiple bands in addition to X-rays--that would allow us to detect molecular gases, and colder gases, that can be driven by these high-energy outflows. All that information will be crucial to understanding how these outflows are connected to galaxy formation."

###

This research was supported by NASA, the European Space Agency, the European Research Council (Award No. 340492), the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (Award No. n.312789, StrongGravity), and the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

The research paper, "Relativistically outflowing gas responds to the inner accretion disk of a black hole," Michael Parker, Ciro Pinto, Andrew Fabian, Anne Lohfink, Douglas Buisson, William Alston, Erin Kara, Edward Cackett, Chia-Ying Chiang, Thomas Dauser, Barbara De Marco, Luigi Gallo, Javier Garcia, Fiona Harrison, Ashley King, Matthew Middleton, Jon Miller, Giovanni Miniutti, Christopher Reynolds, Phil Uttley, Ranjan Vasudevan, Dominic Walton, Daniel Wilkins and Abderahmen Zoghbi, was published in the journal Nature on March 2, 2017.

Media Relations Contact: Irene Ying, 301-405-5204, zying@umd.edu
University of Maryland
College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
2300 Symons Hall
College Park, MD 20742
http://www.cmns.umd.edu
@UMDscience

About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.

Media Contact

Irene Ying
zying@umd.edu
301-405-5204

 @UMDRightNow

http://www.umdrightnow.umd.edu/ 

Irene Ying | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: X-ray XMM-Newton black hole galaxy formation

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale
23.04.2018 | Academy of Finland

nachricht On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve
23.04.2018 | Lobachevsky University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum Technology for Advanced Imaging – QUILT

24.04.2018 | Information Technology

AWI researchers measure a record concentration of microplastic in arctic sea ice

24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences

Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled

24.04.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>