Nearby galaxy boasts two monster black holes, both active

June 10, 2011, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Viewed in visible light, Markarian 739 resembles a smiling face, with a pair of bright cores underscored by an arcing spiral arm. The object is really a pair of merging galaxies. Data from Swift and Chandra reveal the eastern core (left) to be a previously unknown AGN; past studies already had identified an AGN in the western core. The two supermassive black holes are separated by about 11,000 light-years. The galaxy is 425 million light-years away. Credit: Credit: SDSS
(PhysOrg.com) -- A study using NASA's Swift satellite and the Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a second supersized black hole at the heart of an unusual nearby galaxy already known to be sporting one.

The galaxy, which is known as Markarian 739 or NGC 3758, lies 425 million light-years away toward the . Only about 11,000 light-years separate the two cores, each of which contains a black hole gorging on infalling gas.

The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of The .


Video: Zoom into Markarian 739, a hosting two monster . Using NASA's Swift and Chandra, astronomers have shown that both black holes are producing energy as gas falls into them. The object is only the second-known binary active galactic nucleus within half-a-billion light-years. (No audio. Animation begins with visible light view of Markarian 739 and transitions into an artistic rendering of the two black holes. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

"At the hearts of most large , including our own Milky Way, lies a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the sun's mass," said Michael Koss, the study's lead author at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland in College Park (UMCP). "Some of them radiate billions of times as much energy as the sun."

Astronomers refer to galaxy centers exhibiting such intense emission as active galactic nuclei (AGN). Yet as common as monster black holes are, only about one percent of them are currently powerful AGN. Binary AGN are rarer still: Markarian 739 is only the second identified within half a billion light-years.

Many scientists think that disruptive events like galaxy collisions trigger AGN to switch on by sending large amounts of gas toward the black hole. As the gas spirals inward, it becomes extremely hot and radiates huge amounts of energy.

Since 2004, the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) aboard Swift has been mapping high-energy X-ray sources all around the sky. The survey is sensitive to AGN up to 650 million light-years away and has uncovered dozens of previously unrecognized systems. Follow-up studies by Koss and colleagues published in 2010 reveal that about a quarter of the Swift BAT AGN were either interacting or in close pairs, with perhaps 60 percent of them poised to merge in another billion years.

"If two galaxies collide and each possesses a supermassive black hole, there should be times when both black holes switch on as AGN," said coauthor Richard Mushotzky, professor of astronomy at UMCP. "We weren't seeing many double AGN, so we turned to Chandra for help."

Swift's BAT instrument is scanning one-tenth of the sky at any given moment, its X-ray survey growing more sensitive every year as its exposure increases. Where Swift's BAT provided a wide-angle view, the X-ray telescope aboard the Chandra X-ray Observatory acted like a zoom lens and resolved details a hundred times smaller.

For decades, astronomers have known that the eastern nucleus of Markarian 739 contains a black hole that is actively accreting matter and generating prodigious energy. The Chandra study shows that its western neighbor is too. This makes the galaxy one of the nearest and clearest cases of a binary AGN.

The distance separating the two black holes is about a third of the distance separating the solar system from the center of our own galaxy. The dual AGN of Markarian 739 is the second-closest known, both in terms of distance from one another and distance from Earth. However, another galaxy known as NGC 6240 holds both records.

How did the second AGN remain hidden for so long? "Markarian 739 West shows no evidence of being an AGN in visible, ultraviolet and radio observations," said coauthor Sylvain Veilleux, a professor of astronomy at UMCP. "This highlights the critical importance of high-resolution observations at high X-ray energies in locating binary AGN."

Explore further: Swift Survey finds 'Smoking Gun' of Black Hole Activation (w/ Video)

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21 comments

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MIBO
1.6 / 5 (8) Jun 10, 2011
Since there is supposed to equal quantities of Matter and AntiMatter presumably there should be anti-black holes.
What would happen if a supermassive black hole collided with a similar anti-black hole?.

makes you wonder.
Silverhill
4.6 / 5 (11) Jun 10, 2011
If there were a black hole that had started as antimatter, it wouldn't make any difference upon collision with a normal-matter hole. Even though the material within the event horizon retains certain properties, such as charge, any energy release would be trapped within the horizon.

Now, if the hole and the "anti-hole" had accretion disks of normal- and antimatter, there would be considerable fireworks as the disks merged.

Studies of the cosmos reveal no significant accumulations of antimatter, however, and the cosmologists are still trying to find out exactly why this is the case.
Skepticus
1.4 / 5 (5) Jun 10, 2011
Studies of the cosmos reveal no significant accumulations of antimatter, however, and the cosmologists are still trying to find out exactly why this is the case.


This just give me a crazy idea. The Big Bang is not just the creation of the normal matter universe but also a symetrical creation of an antimatter universe going in the opposite direction/dimension/whatever from the one Singularity, just like in particle physics when a certain type of particle decay. Then the symetry would be preserved as a whole.
TombSyphon2317
1.7 / 5 (3) Jun 10, 2011
That is worth some serious thought Skepticus. I would say b/c they are opposites we will never find an antimatter planet, sun, or black hole. At least not in the traditional sense.
Pyle
2.5 / 5 (6) Jun 10, 2011
I have seen this discussed several times elsewhere and I think the overriding argument has been that we don't observe anti-matter we create to be moving backward in time. This could just be a perception problem on our part, but so far we haven't had any reason to suggest that anti-matter behaves any differently than matter with respect to time or gravity. Be sure they are going to try and test it soon now that they can contain anti-matter for more than a fraction of a second.

I wonder how long it will take to figure out these black holes' trajectories and orbiting pattern? We might get to see two AGN's collide in a few hundred thousand years.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (7) Jun 11, 2011
A question to ask of any process in nature as well as in the cosmos is, "What is its function?" Why is a black hole situated in the heart of a galaxy? Could its role be to collect detritus like a drain and recycle and re-emit its energy? Could a black hole's huge mass be keeping some kind of order in the rest of its galaxy?
Telekinetic
1.2 / 5 (10) Jun 12, 2011
"What is its function?" - Telekenetic

Your question is meaningless.

What is the function of a circle?



A question is only meaningless to someone incapable of answering it.
I'm suggesting that there may be an ecosystem, not just on earth, but in space. A circle is a line that represents a simple geometric shape, that is ITS function, while a black hole is actual as far as what's presently known. Things that are real serve, for the most part, some type of function.
Telekinetic
1.4 / 5 (10) Jun 12, 2011
"Smaller primordial black holes can actually emit more energy than they absorb, which results in them losing net mass. Larger black holes, such as those that are one solar mass, absorb more cosmic radiation than they emit through Hawking radiation"
physics.about.com/od/astronomy/f/hawkrad.htm
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (9) Jun 12, 2011
@Vendicar Decarian:
"A barber cuts the hair of everyone in the town who doesn't cut his own hair. Who cuts the hair of the barber?"
He could easily cut it himself, like I have for over thirty years because I do a better job than a barber.
You will never be an Einstein, Hawking or even the smartest person in the room because of your lack of imagination, which is critical to devising incisive questions.

kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) Jun 12, 2011
"What is its function?" - Telekenetic

Your question is meaningless.

What is the function of a circle?



The answer is ambiguous because of the implicitness but i will give you an answer:

(x - h)^2 plus (y - k)^2 = r^2
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (9) Jun 12, 2011
We observed prodigious amounts of energy being emitted from the regions of suspected black holes, he said, but why and how this happens is not clear. Black holes, by definition, exert a gravitational pull so great that not even light can escape them. But they also seem to throw off huge volumes of energized particles, some of which find their way to telescopes such as CGRO and LAT. Blandford and Roman Znajek explained 30 years ago how this energy might come from the rotation of the black hole within a magnetic field. Michelson says GLAST could confirm key aspects of this process with its detailed new data. www.kavlifoundati...st-track
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (9) Jun 12, 2011
So, Vendicar Decarian, what you actually know can be contained in this (.) dot. It's spelled "hunh", you dunce.
Deesky
5 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2011
I must say that the magic ability to subtract energy from a black hole in this manner has not been adequately justified to me either.

It goes something like this. The high energy inherent in the gravitational field of a massive BH creates REAL particle/antiparticle pairs. If one of the particles makes its way inside the BH, the other is radiated away. As a result, the BH loses net energy (as it contributed to making 2 real particles, but only recouped the energy from 1). So total BH energy and its effective mass decrease because of mass/energy equivalence.
Boot103
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2011
I click on a link to find more info on these black holes to find a bunch of nerds fighting over theory's of black holes. How sad.

Why don't you help each other?
Kiljoy616
1 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2011
Blackholes are bs created in the minds of those who cannot make sense of the forces at work./q]

Do tell us what they are so that we may partake in the fruits of our wisdom.
We would not want to miss your ability to move us us with your ability for true enlightenment.
Kiljoy616
3 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2011
"So, Vendicar Decarian, what you actually know can be contained in this (.) dot" - Telekenetic

ROFL


d_robison
5 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2011
At the event horizon a particle pair arises. Due to uncertainty effects one manifests below the horizon one above. The one that manifests below is lost into the singularity and more importantly never has the chance for it's gravitational field to manifest in the exterior universe.

The second particle escapes, taking it's mass and some gravipotential energy from the BH.

Since the infalling particle can not add to the external gravipotential energy of the BH and since the outflowing particle does, it would appear that the external gravitational field of the BH is reduced, and since this is claimed to reflect it's mass, it's mass must be reduced as well.

It is the last statement that is questionable.


I haven't bothered reading most of the comments since they appear to be mostly nonsense, but this one is at least correct and written in an intelligent way.

Nice article, no new information really, but it was entertaining to read.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (6) Jun 13, 2011
The researchers found that these "quiet" black holes released about 1,000 times more energy as jets than as diffuse light. The reasons for this are still unclear.
"That's a mystery, how these black holes selectively put that much energy into the jets without producing much light," study team member Christopher Reynolds from the University of Maryland told Space.com.
Space bubbles
Most of the energy in the jets is being emitted as radio waves, but in at least one of the black holes studied, the energy was in the form of more energetic X-rays.
"The energy in these jets is absolutely huge, about a trillion trillion trillion watts," Allen said.
Now, who should I believe, a Stanford University physicist or a pimple-faced brat with no credentials? Any ideas, V.D.?
Deesky
5 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2011
Well... No.. the particle/antiparticle pairs are constantly being created of their own accord. It is the nature of the vacuum.

No, not quite. *Virtual* particles are always being created in the vacuum, true, but ones close to the BH have a chance of becoming *real* particles/antiparticles (ie, non-virtual), and that takes energy borrowed from the BH.

I find your version harder to fathom frankly - but maybe that's just me.
Pyle
1 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2011
Deesky, the thing I didn't get from VD was what the particle pairs were. I am assuming he means M / AM but can't be sure. I love the word arises he uses.
Since the infalling particle can not add to the external gravipotential energy of the BH
Huh? The infalling is already adding to the "gravipotential energy" maybe? Matter makes gravity stronger. Don't really follow what he is saying either.

VD do you see a singularity existing in the BH? My feeling is that singularities are artifacts of an incomplete theory of gravity, but right up to the limits it works pretty well so it is hard to find fault except in such extreme conditions as a BH. (We'll leave the other extreme alone.)
Deesky
5 / 5 (2) Jun 14, 2011
Deesky, the thing I didn't get from VD was what the particle pairs were. I am assuming he means M / AM but can't be sure.

Yes, that is what it generally meant, or it can be interpreted that virtual particle pairs have positive and negative energy, which normally results in annihilation away from a BH's influence.

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