Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers pierce galactic clouds to shed light on black hole development

Date:
June 19, 2014
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
Using a large array of satellites and space observatories, an international team spent more than a year training their instruments on the brightest and most studied of the “local” black holes — the one situated at the core of Type I Seyfert Galaxy NGC 5548.

This is an illustration of the physical, spatial and temporal picture for the outflows emanating from the vicinity of the super massive black hole in the galaxy NGC 5548. The behavior of the emission source in five epochs is shown along the time axis. The obscurer is situated at roughly 0.03 light years (0.01 parsecs) from the emission source and is only seen in 2011 and 2013 (it is much stronger in 2013). Outflow component 1 shows the most dramatic changes in its absorption troughs. Different observed ionic species are represented as colored zones within the absorbers.
Credit: Ann Feild/Space Telescope Science Institute

An international team of scientists including a Virginia Tech physicist have discovered that winds blowing from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy work to obscure observations and x-rays.

The discovery in today's (June 19, 2004) issue of Science Express sheds light on the unexpected behavior of black holes, which emit large amounts of matter through powerful, galactic winds.

Using a large array of satellites and space observatories, the team spent more than a year training their instruments on the brightest and most studied of the "local" black holes -- the one situated at the core of Type I Seyfert Galaxy NGC 5548.

What they found was a bit of a surprise.

The researchers discovered much colder gas than expected based on past observations, showing that the wind had cooled and that a stream of gas moved quickly outward and blocked 90 percent of x-rays. The observation was the first direct evidence of an obscuration process that -- in more luminous galaxies -- has been shown to regulate growth of black holes.

By looking at data from different sources, scientists found that a thick layer of gas lay between the galactic nucleus and Earth blocked the lower energy x-rays often used to study the system, but allowed more energetic x-rays to get through.

Data from Hubble Space Telescope also showed ultraviolet emissions being partially absorbed by a stream of gas.

A multi-wavelength observational campaign simultaneously looking at an object to decipher its secrets is rare, the researchers said.

"I don't think anyone has trained so many scopes and put in so much time on a single object like this," said Nahum Arav, an associate professor of physics with Virginia Tech's College of Science. "The result is quite spectacular. We saw something that was never studied well before and we also deciphered the outflow in the object. We know far more about this outflow than any studied previously as to where it is and how it behaves in time. We have a physical model that explains all the data we've taken of the outflow over 16 years."

The discovery was made by an international team led by SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research scientist Jelle Kaastra using the major space observatories of the European Space Agency, NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope, Swift, NuSTAR, Chandra, INTREGRAL, and other satellites and observation platforms.

"These outflows are thought to be a major player in the structure formation of the universe," Arav said "This particular outflow is comparatively small but because it's so close we can study it very well and then create a better understanding of how the phenomenon will work in very large objects that do affect the structure formation in the universe."

"Shadowing" of light from a black hole had not been seen before. With the discovery, scientists were able to decipher the outflow.

"Until now our knowledge of these characteristics was very limited," Arav said. "Before we were making educated inferences -- but now we know. We know the distance of outflow from the center of source, we know the mass of outflow, and we know what causes its observed changes. The shadowing was definitely a surprise -- a beautiful phenomenon we were lucky to catch."

Arav said luck played a part because the effect hadn't existed before last year.

Over the past two years the shadowing has built up and Arav believes it won't last much longer than another year or two, but concedes scientists don't have a full enough observation to say how the shadowing feature is changing in time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Astronomers pierce galactic clouds to shed light on black hole development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142053.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2014, June 19). Astronomers pierce galactic clouds to shed light on black hole development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142053.htm
Virginia Tech. "Astronomers pierce galactic clouds to shed light on black hole development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140619142053.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA (July 25, 2014) NASA EDGE webcasts live from Vandenberg AFB for the launch of the Oribiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO) launch. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
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:

More Coverage


Swiftly Moving Gas Streamer Eclipses Supermassive Black Hole

June 19, 2014 An international team of astronomers has discovered unexpected behavior from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy NGC 5548. Their findings may provide new insights into the ... read more
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