Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Nudge Closer To The Edge Of A Black Hole

Date:
October 11, 2006
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
NASA scientists and their international partners using the new Japanese Suzaku satellite have collected a startling new set of black hole observations, revealing details of twisted space and warped time never before seen with such precision.

Supermassive black holes are a prime target for Suzaku. These are voids in the center of most galaxies containing the mass of millions to billions of suns, all confined within a region about the size of our solar system. The black hole itself emits no light, but the process of accreting matter causes the entire region to be extremely bright in all wavelengths. Close to the edge of a black hole, X-rays are the dominant wavelength. Suzaku is sensitive to the X-ray energies emitted close to supermassive black holes, such as quasars.
Credit: NASA/GSFC

NASA scientists and their international partners using the new Japanese Suzaku satellite have collected a startling new set of black hole observations, revealing details of twisted space and warped time never before seen with such precision.

The observations include clocking the speed of a black hole's spin rate and measuring the angle at which matter pours into the void, as well as evidence for a wall of X-ray light pulled back and flattened by gravity.

The findings rely on a special feature in the light emitted close to the black hole, called the "broad iron K line," once doubted by some scientists because of poor resolution in earlier observations, now unambiguously revealed as a true measure of a black hole's crushing gravitational force. This technique can be exploited in future X-ray missions.

"Across the board, we are finding the broad iron K line to be an incredibly robust measure of black hole properties," said Andrew Fabian of Cambridge University, England, who led one of the teams. "We are entering the era of precision black hole measurements."

Fabian is the team leader on Suzaku's black hole spin and light-bending observations. James Reeves of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, led a second team that observed the first accurate measurement of the angle of a disk of material swirling around a black hole.

Suzaku contains a high-energy X-ray detector and an X-ray spectrograph. Together, these instruments detect a broad range of X-ray energies, particularly the higher X-ray energies. Supermassive black holes are a prime target. These are objects in the center of most galaxies, containing the mass of millions to billions of suns confined within a region about the size of our solar system.

This spectral signal has been seen before, most recently with Europe's XMM-Newton satellite in the very same black holes observed by Suzaku. However, Suzaku has a higher sensitivity at this important energy range compared to other telescopes. And Suzaku detects even higher energies, far above 6.4 keV, also with high sensitivity. This combination is a unique satellite feature and provides a more complete picture of black hole activity.

A series of Suzaku observations conducted in 2005 and 2006 demonstrates that the broad iron K line is found coming from almost all galaxies and that the signal is real, from strong gravity, and not noise due to poor resolution. Future X-ray missions can build upon this discovery and use the broad iron K line to "image" a black hole, a long-term goal for NASA space exploration.

In a galaxy called MCG-6-30-15, Fabian's group confirmed that the central black hole is spinning rapidly, taking space and time along for a ride with it. The group found evidence that X-rays emitted close to the black hole, trying to escape, are bent back into the disk of matter flowing inward, away from us. This is predicted by Einstein's general relativity, hinted at in earlier observations, but seen in remarkable new detail with Suzaku.

In a galaxy called MCG-5-23-16, Reeves' team determined that the disk of material feeding the black hole, called the accretion disk, is angled at 45 degrees with respect to our line of sight. Such a precision measurement has not been possible before.

"The broad iron K line is our ticket to view matter and energy very close to a black hole," said Reeves. "Only by probing the extremes of gravity will we find flaws, if any, in Einstein's theories."

Launched in 2005, Suzaku is the fifth in a series of Japanese satellites devoted to studying celestial X-ray sources and is managed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This mission is a collaborative effort between Japanese universities and institutions and NASA Goddard, which provided the X-ray mirrors.

Researchers are presenting their findings today at a press conference today at the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Francisco.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Scientists Nudge Closer To The Edge Of A Black Hole." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061011121453.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2006, October 11). Scientists Nudge Closer To The Edge Of A Black Hole. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061011121453.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Scientists Nudge Closer To The Edge Of A Black Hole." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061011121453.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finally Reaches Long-Term Goal

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) — After more than two years, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reached Mount Sharp, its long-term destination. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

SpaceX's Elon Musk Really Wants To Colonize Mars

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — Elon Musk has been talking about his goal of colonizing Mars for years now, but how much of it does he actually have figured out, and is it possible? Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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