Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Searching for the Best Black Hole Recipe

10.12.2012
In this holiday season of home cooking and carefully-honed recipes, some astronomers are asking: what is the best mix of ingredients for stars to make the largest number of plump black holes?

They are tackling this problem by studying the number of black holes in galaxies with different compositions. One of these galaxies, the ring galaxy NGC 922, is seen in this composite image containing X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (red) and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (appearing as pink, yellow and blue).


X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Prestwich et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

NGC 922 was formed by the collision between two galaxies – one seen in this composite image (where X-rays from Chandra are red and optical data from Hubble appear as pink, blue, and yellow) and another located outside the field of view. This collision triggered the formation of new stars in the shape of a ring. Some of these were massive stars that evolved and collapsed to form black holes. Astronomers are studying NGC 922 and other galaxies to determine the galactic composition that produces the biggest stellar-mass black holes.

NGC 922 was formed by the collision between two galaxies – one seen in this image and another located outside the field of view. This collision triggered the formation of new stars in the shape of a ring. Some of these were massive stars that evolved and collapsed to form black holes.

Most of the bright X-ray sources in Chandra's image of NGC 922 are black holes pulling material in from the winds of massive companion stars. Seven of these are what astronomers classify as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs). These are thought to contain stellar-mass black holes that are at least ten times more massive than the sun, which places them in the upper range for this class of black hole. They are a different class from the supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies, which are millions to billions of times the mass of the sun.

Theoretical work suggests that the most massive stellar-mass black holes should form in environments containing a relatively small fraction of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, called “metals” by astronomers. In massive stars, the processes that drive matter away from the stars in stellar winds work less efficiently if the fraction of metals is smaller. Thus, stars with fewer of these metals among their ingredients should lose less of their mass through winds as they evolve. A consequence of this reduced mass loss is that a larger proportion of massive stars will collapse to form black holes when their nuclear fuel is exhausted. This theory appeared to be supported by the detection of a large number (12) of ULXs in the Cartwheel galaxy, where stars typically contain only about 30% of the metals found in the sun.

To test this theory, scientists studied NGC 922, which contains about the same fraction of metals as the sun, meaning that this galaxy is about three times richer in metals than the Cartwheel galaxy. Perhaps surprisingly, the number of ULXs found in NGC 922 is comparable to the number seen in the Cartwheel galaxy. Rather, the ULX tally appears to depend only on the rate at which stars are forming in the two galaxies, not on the fraction of metals they contain.

One explanation for these results is that the theory predicting the most massive stellar-mass black holes should form in metal poor conditions is incorrect. Another explanation is that the metal fraction in the Cartwheel galaxy is not low enough to have a clear effect on the production of unusually massive stellar-mass black holes, and therefore will not cause an enhancement in the number of ULXs. Recent models incorporating the evolution of stars suggest that a clear enhancement in the number of ULXs might only be seen when the metal fraction falls below about 15%. Astronomers are investigating this possibility by observing galaxies with extremely low metal fractions using Chandra. The number of ULXs is being compared with the number found in galaxies with higher metal content. The results of this work will be published in a future paper.

A paper describing the results for NGC 922 was published in the March 10, 2012 issue of the Astrophysical Journal. The authors were Andrea Prestwich and Jose Luis Galache of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, MA; Tim Linden from University of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA; Vicky Kalogera from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; Andreas Zezas from CfA and University of Crete in Crete, Greece; Tim Roberts from University of Durham in Durham, UK; Roy Kilgard from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT; Anna Wolter and Ginevra Trinchieri from INAF in Milano, Italy.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Megan Watzke | Newswise
Further information:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth
25.09.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas

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: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>