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

Black holes’ true power revealed by 'Russian doll' galaxy
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: Black Hole Blows Big Bubble

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
Provided by CSIRO
Citation: Black holes' true power revealed by 'Russian doll' galaxy (2010, November 9) retrieved 22 August 2019 from
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User comments

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?

Nov 10, 2010
Complex N, to be read on my renewed website.

Nov 10, 2010
LOL, Time Cube!

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.

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

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]

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

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