Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Doomed matter near black hole gets second lease on life

26.03.2003


Supermassive black holes, notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, might also help seed interstellar space with the elements necessary for life, such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and iron, scientists say.



Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton satellite, scientists at Penn State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found evidence of high-speed winds blowing away copious amounts of gas from the cores of two quasar galaxies, which are thought to be powered by black holes.

"The winds we measured imply that as much as a billion suns’ worth of material is blown away over the course of a quasar’s lifetime," said George Chartas of the Penn State Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, who led the observations. The winds might also regulate black hole growth and spur the creation of new stars, according to the science team, which includes Niel Brandt and Gordon Garmire of Penn State and Sarah Gallagher of MIT.


These results are presented today in a press conference at the meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society at Mt. Tremblant, Quebec. Different from high-speed jets shooting off subatomic particles, the newly identified gusts arise from the disk of matter orbiting the black hole, called the accretion disk, once thought to be a one-way ticket into the black hole.

Black holes are objects so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational attraction. But this only applies once matter crosses the theoretical border of a black hole, called the event horizon. Outside the event horizon, the tug of gravity is strong, but matter and light can escape.

Theorists have suggested that a wind could blow away material from its accretion disk and pepper the interstellar region with heavier elements. The wind is created by radiation pressure, analogous to earthly winds created by varying high and low air pressure systems.

Chartas and his colleagues observed two quasars, which are exceedingly distant star-like objects thought to be the bright cores of galaxies fueled by a supermassive black hole. With Chandra, the team observed a quasar called APM 08279+5255; and with the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, they observed a quasar named PG1115+080.

Both quasars are billions of light years away from Earth. However, APM 08279+5255 was naturally magnified by a factor of about 100 and PG1115+080 by a factor of about 25 through a process called gravitational lensing. Essentially, their light, while en route to us, was distorted and magnified by the gravity of intervening galaxies acting like telescope lenses.

With the natural boost in magnification, coupled with the X-ray observatories’ abilities, the scientists could ascertain several key properties in the quasar light, such as the speed of the gas that absorbed the light, as well as the material’s proximity to the black hole.

The team found the first observational evidence of a wind component transporting a substantial amount of carbon, oxygen and iron into the interstellar and intergalactic medium. The wind was moving at 40 percent light speed, considerably faster than predicted.

Brandt said the observation may spur new theoretical work about black hole winds and their effect on their environs. For example, Brandt said, "the wind might provide insight to the relationship between black hole mass and the central bulge of its host galaxy."

Chandra, launched in July 1999, is the third in NASA’s Great Observatory series, a sister craft to the Hubble Space Telescope. ESA’s XMM-Newton was launched from French Guiana in December 1999 and carries three advanced X-ray telescopes.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program, and TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass., for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington.


[ Christopher Wanjek ]

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psu.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Writing and deleting magnets with lasers
19.04.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

nachricht Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source
19.04.2018 | Yokohama National 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: 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...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

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

Diamond-like carbon is formed differently to what was believed -- machine learning enables development of new model

19.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Electromagnetic wizardry: Wireless power transfer enhanced by backward signal

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>