Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Polarised sunglasses see black hole disks

24.07.2008
For the first time astronomers have found a way to get a clean view of the elusive disks of matter surrounding supermassive black holes. By using a polarising filter on the Science and Technology Facility Council’s UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) in Hawaii, they have been able to see through the clouds of dust which surround these black holes. This work is published on 24th July 2008 in Nature.

In a similar way that a fisherman would wear polarised sunglasses to help get rid of the glare from the water surface and allow him to see more clearly under the water, the filter on the telescope allowed the astronomers to see beyond surrounding clouds of dust and gas to the blue colour of the disk in infrared light.

It is believed that most, if not all, galaxies have a supermassive black hole in their centre, and this is an area of intense research within astronomy. Studying these black holes and discovering more about their structure can be difficult as they are so far away from us. Also, the clouds of gas and dust which surround the black holes make it difficult to achieve a clean, uncontaminated spectrum of the black hole vicinity.

Andy Lawrence, of the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Astronomy, and co-investigator on the project, says “For decades there has been a theory that supermassive black holes should be accumulating materials in the form of a disk …but until now this has been impossible to test due to the contamination by the dust clouds.”

The team, led by Makoto Kishimoto of the Max Planck Institut fuer Radioastronomie, have found a way around this problem. Some of the black holes have a very small amount of scattered light coming from the vicinity of the black hole itself, rather than the clouds of gas and dust around it. This light has become polarised after hitting matter within the disk. By using a filter that only allows this polarised light to come through and blocks out the unpolarised light from the gas clouds, they were able to visually eliminate them and reveal the disk.

This new method could help astronomers in their understanding of the outermost region of the disks where important questions are still to be answered: how and where the disk ends, and how material is being supplied to the disk.

Dr. Chris Davis of the Joint Astronomy Centre, the facility operating UKIRT, says: "UKIRT has long been at the forefront of infrared astronomy, and has been a leader in the niche area of infrared polarimetry for almost two decades. Without facilities like the infrared polarimeter (IRPOL), even with the very largest telescopes in the world, exciting discoveries like those of Kishimoto and his colleagues could not be made."

Julia Short | alfa
Further information:
http://www.stfc.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future
19.02.2018 | Chalmers University of Technology

nachricht Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm
16.02.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>