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 Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | 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: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>