Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chandra X-ray Observatory Pinpoints Edge Of Accretion Disk Around Black Hole

Date:
May 8, 2001
Source:
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Summary:
Using four NASA space observatories, astronomers have shown that a flaring black hole source has an accretion disk that stops much farther out than some theories predict. This provides a better understanding of how energy is released when matter spirals into a black hole.

Using four NASA space observatories, astronomers have shown that a flaring black hole source has an accretion disk that stops much farther out than some theories predict. This provides a better understanding of how energy is released when matter spirals into a black hole.

Related Articles


On April 18, 2000, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer observed ultraviolet radiation from the object known as XTE J1118+480, a black hole roughly seven times the mass of the Sun, locked in a close binary orbit with a Sun-like star. Simultaneously, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer observed high-energy X-rays from matter plunging toward the black hole, while the Chandra X-ray Observatory focused on the critical energy band between the ultraviolet and high-energy X-rays, providing the link that tied all the data together.

"By combining the observations of XTE J1118+480 at many different wavelengths, we have found the first clear evidence that the accretion disk can stop farther out," said Jeffrey McClintock of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who led the Chandra observations. "The Chandra data indicate that this accretion disk gets no closer to the event horizon than about 600 miles, a far cry from the 25 miles that some had expected." Scientists theorize that the accretion disk is truncated there because the material erupts into a hot bubble of gas before taking its final plunge into the black hole.

Matter stripped from a companion star by a black hole can form a flat, pancake-like structure, called an "accretion disk." As material spirals toward the inner edge of the accretion disk, it is heated by the immense gravity of the black hole, which causes it to radiate in X-rays. By examining the X-rays, researchers can gauge how far inward the accretion disk extends.

Most astronomers agree that when material is transferred onto the black hole at a high rate, then the accretion disk will reach to within about 25 miles of the event horizon -- the surface of "no return" for matter or light falling into a black hole. However, scientists disagree on how close the accretion disk comes when the rate of transfer is much less.

"The breakthrough came when Chandra did not detect the X-ray signature one would expect if the accretion disk came as near as 25 miles," said Ann Esin, a Caltech theoretical astrophysicist who led a group that explored the implications of the observations. "This presents a fundamental problem for models in which the disk extends close to the event horizon."

In March 2000, XTE J1118+480 experienced a sudden eruption in X-rays that led to the discovery of the object by RXTE. The X-ray source was in a direction where absorption by gas and dust was minimal, allowing ultraviolet and low-energy X-rays to be observed. In the following month, an international team organized observations of XTE J1118+480 in other wavelengths.

Chandra observed XTE J1118+480 for 27,000 seconds with its Low-Energy Transmission Grating (LETG) and the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS). The research team for this investigation also included scientists from both the United States (CfA, MIT, University of Notre Dame, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and the United Kingdom (The Open University, University of Southampton, Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory).

The LETG was built by the SRON and the Max Planck Institute, and the ACIS instrument by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass., and Penn State University, University Park. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program. 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.

Images associated with this release are available on the World Wide Web at:

http://chandra.harvard.edu

and

http://chandra.nasa.gov


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Chandra X-ray Observatory Pinpoints Edge Of Accretion Disk Around Black Hole." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010508082955.htm>.
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. (2001, May 8). Chandra X-ray Observatory Pinpoints Edge Of Accretion Disk Around Black Hole. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010508082955.htm
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Chandra X-ray Observatory Pinpoints Edge Of Accretion Disk Around Black Hole." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010508082955.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins