NuSTAR sees rare blurring of black hole light

Aug 12, 2014
An artist’s impression of a supermassive black hole and its surroundings. The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for the Mrk 335 corona, as its actual shape is unclear. Credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.

"The corona recently collapsed in toward the black hole, with the result that the black hole's pulled all the light down onto its surrounding disk, where material is spiraling inward," said Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, United Kingdom, lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

As the corona shifted closer to the black hole, the gravity of the black hole exerted a stronger tug on the X-rays emitted by it. The result was an extreme blurring and stretching of the X-ray light. Such events had been observed previously, but never to this degree and in such detail.

Supermassive are thought to reside in the centers of all galaxies. Some are more massive and rotate faster than others. The black hole in this new study, referred to as Markarian 335, or Mrk 335, is about 324 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the Pegasus constellation. It is one of the most extreme of the systems for which the mass and spin rate have ever been measured. The black hole squeezes about 10 million times the mass of our Sun into a region only 30 times the diameter of the Sun, and it spins so rapidly that space and time are dragged around with it.

This plot of data captured by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, shows X-ray light streaming from regions near a supermassive black hole known as Markarian 335. Credit: NASA

Even though some light falls into a supermassive black hole never to be seen again, other high-energy light emanates from both the corona and the surrounding accretion disk of superheated material. Though astronomers are uncertain of the shape and temperature of coronas, they know that they contain particles that move close to the speed of light.

NASA's Swift satellite has monitored Mrk 335 for years, and recently noted a dramatic change in its X-ray brightness. In what is called a target-of-opportunity observation, NuSTAR was redirected to take a look at high-energy X-rays from this source in the range of 3 to 79 kiloelectron volts. This particular energy range offers astronomers a detailed look at what is happening near the event horizon, the region around a black hole from which light can no longer escape gravity's grasp.

Follow-up observations indicate that the corona is still in this close configuration, months after it moved. Researchers don't know whether and when the corona will shift back. What's more, the NuSTAR observations reveal that the grip of the black hole's gravity pulled the corona's light onto the inner portion of its superheated disk, better illuminating it. Almost as if somebody had shone a flashlight for the astronomers, the shifting corona lit up the precise region they wanted to study.

The new data could ultimately help determine more about the mysterious nature of black hole coronas. In addition, the observations have provided better measurements of Mrk 335's furious relativistic spin rate. Relativistic speeds are those approaching the speed of light, as described by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

"We still don't understand exactly how the is produced or why it changes its shape, but we see it lighting up material around the black hole, enabling us to study the regions so close in that effects described by Einstein's theory of general relativity become prominent," said NuSTAR Principal Investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. "NuSTAR's unprecedented capability for observing this and similar events allows us to study the most extreme light-bending effects of ."

Explore further: NuSTAR celebrates two years of science in space

More information: "Black hole spin and size of the X-ray-emitting region(s) in the Seyfert 1.5 galaxy ESO 362-G18," B. Agís-González, G. Miniutti, E. Kara, A. C. Fabian, M. Sanfrutos, G. Risaliti, S. Bianchi, N. L. Strotjohann, R. D. Saxton and M. L. Parker, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Oxford University Press, in press: mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/443/4/2862

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Psilly_T
3.5 / 5 (8) Aug 12, 2014
"the NuSTAR observations reveal that the grip of the black hole's gravity pulled the corona's light onto the inner portion of its superheated disk, better illuminating it. Almost as if somebody had shone a flashlight for the astronomers, the shifting corona lit up the precise region they wanted to study."

that...is...awesome!
vindian6
1.3 / 5 (12) Aug 13, 2014
The article lacks clarity on the concept of Black hole. All the light and other particles are the transformation of energy due to the self repulsive action of the "Absolute space" or "Black Hole" or Gravity. Blackhole in any star is always connected to the "Unified Field", just like our human Genetic center (source of bio-magnetism) is connected to the Universal Magnetism, where all the imprints are stored and restored.
wasp171
1.3 / 5 (14) Aug 13, 2014
It's not a "blurring light".j
It's been known for long and it's called Birkeland current.
Expiorer
1 / 5 (1) Aug 13, 2014
Artist's impression lacks the fact that the black hole bends light.
Anybody can do better impression?
yyz
4.5 / 5 (8) Aug 13, 2014
Markarian 335 (aka ESO 362-G18) is one of a score of nearby(z=0.012) SMBHs that have empirical estimates of their spin (Kerr spin parameter 'a': http://www.astro....rrBH.pdf ). The spin for this nearby 4.5x10^7 solar mass BH was a>0.92: http://arxiv.org/abs/1407.1238

Recently, the spin of a much more distant (z=1.695) SMBH, the quadruply lensed "Einstein Cross" (aka QSO 2237+305) has been constrained from deep Chandra X-ray Observatory observations. This 10^9 solar mass BH was found to have a Kerr spin parameter a>0.65: http://arxiv.org/abs/1408.1934

The relativistic BH spins found in both distant and nearby SMBHs are consistent with the model of BH mergers in the early universe contributing to the angular momentum observed in these objects.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) Aug 13, 2014
If you look at the "artist's impression" very closely you can see the unicorn!

http://vixra.org/abs/1103.0045
Tektrix
5 / 5 (9) Aug 13, 2014
. . .
It's been known for long and it's called Birkeland current.


No it hasn't and no, it's not.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (3) Aug 15, 2014
Sub: Cosmic Function of the universe
Need to comprehend Prime concepts, Visible-Invisible matrix, then Super-imposition of Visible Invisible Matrix,Cosmic Vision from heart and Center of the Universe and downlink to Milky Way Galaxy. All these come under Origins-Space Cosmology Vedas .
Interlinks help to identify Plasma Regulated electromagnetic Phenomena in Magnetic field Environment that holds the key at the milky Way Galactic Frame
http://vidyardhic...ion.html
gsvasktg
not rated yet Aug 18, 2014
The components comprising space is at a maximum stress of 4E+35 Newtons and that is the maximum grvitational stress a blackhole centre can have. The space matter density is 3.6 E minus 25 and therefore the acceleration towards a blackhole center is 7E +52 meters /sec. Light is a strese wave and transmigrates from high count to lower count in space amtter. Learn about all this from asn axiomatic theory that can never be changed on website kapillavastu dot com and file pho pdf.Please send in your comment for proof
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Aug 18, 2014
The relativistic BH spins found in both distant and nearby SMBHs are consistent with the model of BH mergers in the early universe contributing to the angular momentum observed in these objects
@yyz
SORRY for the downvote... stupid touch-pad on this laptop

It's been known for long
@wasp171
you should do some homework and learn a little more about physics.
try starting here: http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

learn about reality before posting and learn why the physics of reality and the modern science and methodology are far more interesting than any pseudoscience like eu.
TechnoCreed
5 / 5 (4) Aug 18, 2014
@Psilly_T
You Bet!

@vindian6
Is this clear enough for you? http://www.esa.in...e_0.html

@wasp171
Oh! Shocking

@Explorer
Show us your divine stickman art man!

@Toronto (yyz)
An oasis of knowledge in the middle of the desert. Thank you!

@cantdrive85
Yay! And you are sitting on it.

@Tektrix
I understand your distress.

@vidyunmaya
Esoterism hey! Hare Krishna, hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, hare, hare...

@gsvasktg
Holographic aura OHhhh! Hare Rama, hare Rama, Rama, Rama, hare, hare...

@Captain Stumpy
Touch-pads are suppose to be used with your fingers not your toes Capt'n.

Please do not take this too seriously. I have just re-watched 'The Dead Poet Society' and felt like freely expressing myself.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 18, 2014
@Captain Stumpy
Touch-pads are suppose to be used with your fingers not your toes Capt'n.
@TechnoCreed
NOW you tell me!
Please do not take this too seriously. I have just re-watched 'The Dead Poet Society' and felt like freely expressing myself.
in remembrance of Robin or just because?
ENJOY IT... I am leaving to watch The Fisher King and maybe some of his stand up

PEACE

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