This supermassive black hole takes long snack breaks, according to a new model

This supermassive black hole takes long snack breaks, according to a new model

This supermassive black hole takes long snack breaks, according to a new model

black hole science is a bit like shadow puppet theatre. Black holes cannot be seen directly because they trap all matter that falls into them, including light.

However, one way for scientists to discover them is to examine the behavior of bright substances surrounding black holes. Sometimes, as is the case with the two supermassive black holes the world has seen through the incredible images of the Event Horizon Telescope, the shadows of the black holes are flanked by the glow of superheated material whipping around it quite continuously. .

Other times it is not. Single instances of illumination, called transients, then do the trick to reveal the nature of the black hole. But a new article published on January 5 in Royal Astronomical Society Monthly Notices: Letters discusses a case where a plot twist emerged from obscurity.

The team explains their model in this animation.

In an unexpected surprise, a black hole emitted a flash two years after it was first detected. It’s gone “silent” for the past two years because it’s been nibbling on a star. And by not finishing its meal, the star lived to fly around the black hole, only to return later and get sucked even further into the black hole’s powerful gravitational field.

“I was extremely excited to learn that the source reactivated so long after entering a quiescent state,” said Eric Coughlin, study author and assistant professor of physics at Syracuse University at Syracuse University. New York. Reverse.

A transient is a source that waxes and wanes in the night sky on human timescales, Coughlin told an audience Thursday during a presentation at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

The confusing flicker is a transient called AT2018fyk. This is a repeated partial tidal disturbance event, in which the signal appears to show something interacting with the black hole. The unknown object then stops and returns.

Coughlin’s goal on Thursday was to present a pattern that could potentially explain the particular transient.

Image taken by the Event Horizon Telescope of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Document/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Here’s the idea: an “unhappy” star provides a brief source of gas when the black hole shreds stellar matter and overheats it. Rather than collapsing into complete demise, the star returns to space. Having lost some mass but still holding together, it survives the encounter and retreats from the black hole. But later it wobbles once again.

This work could help astrophysicists learn more about supermassive black holes that don’t have a lot of matter bubbling and glowing in their gravitational field. “Unfortunately, most supermassive black holes in the entire Universe – something like 98% – do not have a constant supply of mass in this form,” Coughlin said at the AAS meeting.

Directly detecting these dark black holes, he added, “is no small feat.”

“I’ve studied tidal disturbance events for a while, but they involve so many different pieces of physics and astrophysics that there’s always something new to model and learn,” Coughlin said. Reverse. “The next decade is going to be a very bright one – pun intended – for the continued study and discovery of tidal disturbance events and other transient sources.”

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