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Data from MAXI J1820+070 shows Einstein was right about how matter plunges into a black hole

Data from MAXI J1820+070 shows Einstein was right about how matter plunges into a black hole
The physical origin of the different emission fit to MAXI J1820. We split the disk emission (blue solid curve) into components sourced outside (green dot–dashed) and inside (orange dashed) the ISCO. The intra-ISCO emission provides the hot-and-small thermal component previously added ad-hoc to vanishing ISCO stress accretion models. Credit: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2024). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stae1160

A team of astrophysicists from the University of Oxford, Newcastle University and the Institute of Astronomy, all in the U.K., working with a colleague from the University of Virginia, in the U.S., has found evidence showing that Albert Einstein was correct when his theory of general relativity predicted how matter that came to close to a black hole would fall into it.

For their study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Andrew Mummery, Adam Ingram, Andrew Fabian and Shane Davis observed material as it fell into a black hole in the binary system MAXI J1820+070.

Prior research has shown that matter approaching a black hole too closely is torn apart because of the gravitational effect: Atoms closer to the black hole are pulled harder than those that are farther away. The material then forms a ring around the black hole that we call an .

Einstein's theory suggests that there should exist a boundary between such an accretion disk and the black hole. When the accretion disk crosses that boundary, it falls in. Until now, it has been unknown whether matter in the accretion disk falls in smoothly or through a sudden plunge. The theory of general relativity suggests it should be the latter but does not account for how it might be possible to observe it.

The research team was studying a binary system approximately 10,000 away using the orbital X-ray telescope NuSTAR. Called MAXI J1820+070, the system has a black hole at its center, which became their focus. To learn more about the black hole, they used data from the telescope to model its behavior.

The simulations suggested that it only worked as expected when the showed matter that passed the inner boundary plunging into the black hole—confirmation of predictions made by the . They also found that the reason that light from the falling matter is observable is that it combines with light from the accretion disk.

More information: Andrew Mummery et al, Continuum emission from within the plunging region of black hole discs, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2024). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stae1160

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Citation: Data from MAXI J1820+070 shows Einstein was right about how matter plunges into a black hole (2024, May 17) retrieved 23 June 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-05-maxi-j1820070-einstein-plunges-black.html
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