Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Accretion Discs Show Their True Colours

24.07.2008
VLT observations of quasars reconcile observations with models

Quasars are the brilliant cores of remote galaxies, at the hearts of which lie supermassive black holes that can generate enough power to outshine the Sun a trillion times. These mighty power sources are fuelled by interstellar gas, thought to be sucked into the hole from a surrounding 'accretion disc'.

A paper in this week's issue of the journal Nature, partly based on observations collected with ESO's Very Large Telescope, verifies a long-standing prediction about the intensely luminous radiation emitted by these accretion discs.

"Astronomers were puzzled by the fact that the best models of these discs couldn't quite be reconciled with some of the observations, in particular, with the fact that these discs did not appear as blue as they should be," explains lead-author Makoto Kishimoto.

Such a discrepancy could be the signal that there was something very wrong with the models. With his colleagues, he investigated this discrepancy by studying the polarised light from six quasars. This enabled them to demonstrate that the disc spectrum is as blue as predicted.

"The crucial observational difficulty here has been that the disc is surrounded by a much larger torus containing hot dust, whose light partly outshines that of the disc," says Kishimoto. "Because the light coming from the disc is scattered in the disc vicinity and thus polarised, by observing only polarised light from the quasars, one can uncover the buried light from the disc."

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 disc in infrared light.

The observations were done with the FORS and ISAAC instruments on one of the 8.2-m Unit Telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope, located in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, as well as several other telescopes, including STFC's UKIRT.

The standard picture of the accretion disc is therefore vindicated. The authors believe that further measurements could eventually provide valuable insight into how and where the disc ends, and how material is being supplied to the disc.

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org
http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2008/pr-21-08.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Computer model predicts how fracturing metallic glass releases energy at the atomic level
20.07.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

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: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>