Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers discover 'missing link' of black holes

Date:
December 12, 2012
Source:
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)
Summary:
The discovery of a binging black hole in our nearest neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, has shed new light on some of the brightest X-ray sources seen in other galaxies, according to a new article.

A composite image of our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, showing different views of the Ultraluminous X-ray (ULX) source. The background image is an optical (visible) light picture of Andromeda, with the X-ray image (bottom left) taken with the Earth-orbiting XMM-Newton X-ray telescope superimposed. Colours in the X-ray image correspond to different X-ray energies, with red being least energetic and blue being most energetic. The ULX is indicated by the cross-hairs. At the top right is the radio image of the black hole taken with the Very Long Baseline Array radio telescope, showing that the radio emission was coming from an extremely small region of space, and leading the team to infer that the extraordinary amount of X-ray emission they observed was produced by a relatively modest-sized black hole.
Credit: X-rays: ESA/M. Middleton et al. Radio: NRAO/M. Middleton et al. Optical: Aladin/STScI DSS

The discovery of a binging black hole in our nearest neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, has shed new light on some of the brightest X-ray sources seen in other galaxies, according to new work co-authored by astronomers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research's Curtin University node.

Using a suite of Earth-orbiting X-ray telescopes, including NASA's Swift and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellites, a large international team of astronomers watched as the X-ray emission from the black hole -- found over 2million light years away -- brightened and faded over the course of six months.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, also shows what happens when black holes feast rapidly on the material stripped from a companion star.

It is the second Ultraluminous X-Ray source (ULX) to have been spotted in Andromeda -- the Milky Way's nearest neighboring galaxy -- in the past two years.

X-ray telescopes have shown many nearby galaxies to host ULX sources, which can be bright enough to outshine an entire galaxy in X-rays.

Astronomers have spent years debating whether these are black holes just a few times the mass of the Sun which are gorging themselves on gas from an orbiting star, or whether they are more massive black holes eating more sedately.

Lead author Dr Matthew Middleton, who led the latest research while at Durham University, said the findings helped solve this debate.

Dr Middleton, now based at the University of Amsterdam, said: "The black hole we observed in Andromeda is the missing link.

"Our observations tell us that this ultraluminous X-ray source -- and by extension, many others -- is just a run-of-the-mill black hole, only about ten times the mass of the Sun, that is swallowing material as fast as it can."

Dr Middleton added: "We watched a black hole go from nibbling daintily at an appetiser to binging on the main course, and then gradually slowing down over dessert."

Black holes in our own Milky Way galaxy are very rarely seen to binge, but when they do, they also launch very powerful beams of material called jets, which are blasted outwards at close to the speed of light, and can be tracked using sensitive radio telescopes.

The team trained the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array on the black hole, and saw extremely bright radio emission that dropped by a half in just 30 minutes.

"Discovering these radio waves from an ultraluminous X-ray source is the smoking gun, a dead giveaway that these are just normal, everyday black holes," said co-author Dr James Miller-Jones, of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Australia.

"This tells us that the region producing radio waves is extremely small in size, no further across than the distance between Jupiter and the Sun."

This finding was confirmed by zooming in using the world's most eagle-eyed radio telescope, the Very Long Baseline Array.

This was the first time that radio jets had been detected from a stellar-mass black hole outside our own Milky Way galaxy.

Despite the large distance to Andromeda, the absence of dust and gas in that direction allows an unhindered view of the feast, giving scientists key new insights into how jets are produced by a binging black hole.

Co-author Dr Natasha Hurley-Walker, also from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said: "We were very lucky that this ULX appeared in our local neighbourhood; its proximity meant that we could make these radio observations and demonstrate that the black hole emitting the X-rays is fairly small."

ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia providing research excellence in the field of radio astronomy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew J. Middleton, James C. A. Miller-Jones, Sera Markoff, Rob Fender, Martin Henze, Natasha Hurley-Walker, Anna M. M. Scaife, Timothy P. Roberts, Dominic Walton, John Carpenter, Jean-Pierre Macquart, Geoffrey C. Bower, Mark Gurwell, Wolfgang Pietsch, Frank Haberl, Jonathan Harris, Michael Daniel, Junayd Miah, Chris Done, John S. Morgan, Hugh Dickinson, Phil Charles, Vadim Burwitz, Massimo Della Valle, Michael Freyberg, Jochen Greiner, Margarita Hernanz, Dieter H. Hartmann, Despina Hatzidimitriou, Arno Riffeser, Gloria Sala, Stella Seitz, Pablo Reig, Arne Rau, Marina Orio, David Titterington, Keith Grainge. Bright radio emission from an ultraluminous stellar-mass microquasar in M 31. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11697

Cite This Page:

International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). "Astronomers discover 'missing link' of black holes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212130756.htm>.
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). (2012, December 12). Astronomers discover 'missing link' of black holes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212130756.htm
International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). "Astronomers discover 'missing link' of black holes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212130756.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2014) The rocket, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, carries a Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment destined for the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. 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