Black holes' true power revealed by 'Russian doll' galaxy

Nov 09, 2010
A composite image showing the position of the 'miniature galaxy' S26 in the galaxy NGC 7793. The image of S26 is a radio image, made with a CSIRO telescope while the image of the galaxy is made from combined X-ray and optical data. Image credit - Soria et al / CSIRO / ATCA; NGC 7793 - NASA, ESO and NOAO.

Following a study of what is in effect a miniature galaxy buried inside a normal-sized one – like a Russian doll – astronomers using a CSIRO telescope have concluded that massive black holes are more powerful than we thought.

An international team of astronomers led by Dr. Manfred Pakull at the University of Strasbourg in France has discovered a ‘microquasar’ – a small black hole, weighing only as much as a star, that shoots jets of radio-emitting particles into space.

Called S26, the black hole sits inside a regular galaxy called NGC 7793, which is 13M light-years away in the Southern constellation of Sculptor.

Earlier this year Pakull and colleagues observed S26 with optical and X-ray telescopes (the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Chandra space telescope).

Now they have made new observations with CSIRO’s Compact Array radio telescope near Narrabri, NSW. These show that S26 is a near-perfect analogue of the much larger ‘radio galaxies’ and ‘radio quasars’.

Powerful radio galaxies and quasars are almost extinct today, but they dominated the early Universe, billions of years ago, like cosmic dinosaurs. They contain big black holes, billions of times more massive than the Sun, and shoot out huge radio jets that can stretch millions of light-years into space.

Astronomers have been working for decades to understand how these form their giant jets, and how much of the black hole’s energy those jets transmit to the gas they travel through. That gas is the raw material for forming stars, and the effects of jets on star-formation have been hotly debated.

"Measuring the power of black hole jets, and therefore their heating effect, is usually very difficult," said co-author Roberto Soria (University College London), who carried out the radio observations.

"With this unusual object, a bonsai radio quasar in our own backyard, we have a unique opportunity to study the energetics of the jets."

Using their combined optical, X-ray and radio data, the scientists were able to determine how much of the jet’s energy went into heating the gas around it, and how much went into making the jet glow at radio wavelengths.

They concluded that only about a thousandth of the energy went into creating the radio glow.

"This suggests that in bigger galaxies too the jets are about a thousand times more powerful than we’d estimate from their radio glow alone," said Dr. Tasso Tzioumis of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.

"That means that black hole jets can be both more powerful and more efficient than we thought, and that their heating effect on the they live in can be stronger."

The study was made possible by a recent upgrade to the Compact Array, which can now do work of this kind five times faster than before.

Explore further: Image: NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo

More information: Roberto Soria, et al. “Radio lobes and X-ray hotspots in the microquasar S26.” In press in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Available online on the MNRAS website and at arxiv.org/abs/1008.0394

Related Stories

Image: Black Hole Blows Big Bubble

Jul 12, 2010

This composite image shows a powerful microquasar produced by a black hole in the outskirts of the nearby (12.7 million light years) galaxy NGC 7793. The large image contains data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory ...

Black hole blows big bubble

Jul 07, 2010

Combining observations made with ESO's Very Large Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have uncovered the most powerful pair of jets ever seen from a stellar black hole. This object, also ...

Chandra Sheds Light on Galaxy Collision

Mar 29, 2007

Astronomers think that there are enormous black holes at the centers of most, if not all, galaxies. These black holes, which can be millions or even billions of times more massive than the Sun, can greatly ...

X-Ray Jets

Sep 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The supermassive black holes that lie at the centers of galaxies can spawn tremendous bipolar jets of atomic particles.

Astronomers reveal a 'blue whale of space'

Jul 07, 2009

CSIRO astronomers have revealed the hidden face of an enormous galaxy called Centaurus A, which emits a radio glow covering an area 200 times bigger than the full Moon.

Recommended for you

Image: NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo

15 hours ago

This picture, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), shows a galaxy known as NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). Its unusual shape is caused ...

Measuring the proper motion of a galaxy

16 hours ago

The motion of a star relative to us can be determined by measuring two quantities, radial motion and proper motion. Radial motion is the motion of a star along our line of sight. That is, motion directly ...

Gravitational waves according to Planck

Sep 22, 2014

Scientists of the Planck collaboration, and in particular the Trieste team, have conducted a series of in-depth checks on the discovery recently publicized by the Antarctic Observatory, which announced last ...

Infant solar system shows signs of windy weather

Sep 22, 2014

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have observed what may be the first-ever signs of windy weather around a T Tauri star, an infant analog of our own Sun. This may help ...

Finding hints of gravitational waves in the stars

Sep 22, 2014

Scientists have shown how gravitational waves—invisible ripples in the fabric of space and time that propagate through the universe—might be "seen" by looking at the stars. The new model proposes that ...

How gamma ray telescopes work

Sep 22, 2014

Yesterday I talked about the detection of gamma ray bursts, intense blasts of gamma rays that occasionally appear in distant galaxies. Gamma ray bursts were only detected when gamma ray satellites were put ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VK1
1.7 / 5 (18) Nov 09, 2010
The division (nuclear decay) of the galactic blackhole is responsible for every star and subsequently every atom of each galaxy.

The division of the universal blackhole is responsible for every galaxy contained within the universe.

Fractioning of mass is what we witness to be rate of change, the +1 dimension (time).

Reality is Fractioning of Nuclei. It is a fractal world. The rest is relative (interaction of related nuclei).
huntingsthompson
2 / 5 (4) Nov 09, 2010
At what point will this reality no longer be able to support itself? When the equation becomes balanced?

Can a sentient being subtract from this equation?

Could the jets of these objects actually be portals to other parts of the universe depending on the scale of the object? It would help to explain how simulations of the universe look like a series of neurons connecting to one another.

And if we're playing the game of trace the connections, could you theoretically at some point trace the galaxies back to the origin point?

One final thought, are galaxies just parallel variations of chaos or perhaps entropy?

genastropsychicallst
1 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2010
Complex N, to be read on my renewed website.
Sanescience
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2010
LOL, Time Cube!
jsa09
not rated yet Nov 10, 2010
I thought it was already determined that the so called quasars previously observed were in fact just the energy emitted by a black hole while matter decayed in orbit.

So every black hole could at any time become a quasar simply by having a mass fall into it. The bigger the mass the bigger the quasar.

That quasars were black holes inside galaxies and the galaxies may very well look the same as our own galaxy.

Since estimates insist that there could be 100's or even thousands of black holes in our own galaxy then all we have to do is observer a black hole when it is eating a star which obviously does not happen very often.
omatumr
2 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2010
The division (nuclear decay) of the galactic blackhole is responsible for every star and subsequently every atom of each galaxy.

The division of the universal blackhole is responsible for every galaxy contained within the universe.

Reality is Fractioning of Nuclei. It is a fractal world. The rest is relative (interaction of related nuclei).


Yes. The cosmos is fragmenting.

Why? Neutron repulsion causes fragmentation.

No. There are no black holes.

Why? Neutron repulsion prevents the collapse of massive neutron stars.

See: "The sun's origin, composition and source of energy", in Lunar & Planetary Science XXIX, Abstract 1041, available as 1041-pdf from Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, TX (CD-ROM, 2001) and 3rd video in the series: Scientific Genesis, http://www.youtub...e_Qk-q7M

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
omatumr
1 / 5 (3) Nov 11, 2010
And if we're playing the game of trace the connections, could you theoretically at some point trace the galaxies back to the origin point?


If there was an "origin point", it was a massive neutron star. See: "The cosmic nuclear cycle and the similarity of nuclei and stars" [Journal of Fusion Energy 25 (2006) 107-114] arxiv.org/pdf/nucl-th/0511051v1

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel