Data from ESA's Integral High Energy Observatory helped clarify the workings of a mysterious black hole that was launching plasma "bullets" while spinning in space.
The black hole is part of a binary system known as the Cygni V404 and is sucking material from a companion star. It is located in our Milky Way, about 8,000 light years from Earth, and was first identified in 1989 when it caused a huge explosion of radiation and high energy material.
After 26 years of numbness, he woke up again in 2015, becoming for a short time the brightest object in the sky observable on high energy X-rays.
Astronomers from all over the world pointed their terrestrial and space telescopes to the celestial object and found that the black hole was behaving rather oddly.
A new study, based on data collected during the 2015 unveiling, has now revealed the inner workings of this cosmic monster. The results are reported in the journal Nature.
"During the explosion, we observed details of jet emissions when the material is ejected at a very high velocity from the black hole neighborhood," says Simone Migliari, an ESA astrophysicist who co-authored the article.
"We can see the jets firing in different directions on a time scale of less than an hour, which means that the internal regions of the system are spinning very fast."
Usually, astronomers see the jets firing directly from the poles of the black holes, perpendicular to the surrounding disk of material that is added from the companion star.
Previously, there was only one black hole observed with a rotating jet. It was, however, spinning much more slowly, completing a cycle in about six months.
Astronomers were able to observe Cygni V404 jets on radio waves using telescopes such as the Very Long Baseline Array in the USA.
Meanwhile, high-energy X-ray data from Integral and other space observatories helped decode what was happening at the same time within the inner region of the disk plus 10 million kilometers. This was important because it is the mechanics of the disk that causes the strange behavior of the jet.
"What's different about the V404 Cygni is that we think the material disk and the black hole are misaligned," says Associate Professor James Miller-Jones of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) at Curtin University, Australia, who is the lead author of the new article.
"This seems to be causing the inner part of the disc to sway like a spinning top, and to shoot jets in different directions as it changes orientation."
During the explosion, a large amount of the surrounding material was falling into the black hole at one time, temporarily increasing the rate of accretion of the disc material toward the black hole and resulting in a sudden surge of energy. This was seen by Integral as an abrupt increase in X-ray emission.
Integral's observations were used to estimate the energy and geometry of the addition in the black hole, which in turn were crucial to understanding the connection between incoming and outgoing material to create a complete picture of the situation.
"With Integral, we were able to continue to look at the Cygni V404 continuously for four weeks, while other high-energy satellites could only take shorter shots," says Erik Kuulkers, an ESA Integral Project scientist.
"The X-ray data supports a model in which the inner part of the accretion disk is tilted relative to the rest of the system, probably because the black hole's rotation is tilted relative to the orbit of the companion star," explains Simone.
Scientists are studying what caused this strange misalignment. One possibility is that the axis of rotation of the black hole may have been tilted by & # 39; received during the explosion of the supernova that created it.
"The results would fit into a scenario, also studied in recent computational simulations, where the accretion flow in the vicinity of the black hole and the jets can rotate together," says Erik.
"We should expect similar dynamics in any strongly aggregated black hole whose spin is misaligned with the influx of gas, and we will have to take into account different angles of jet slope when interpreting observations of black holes throughout the Universe."
Research report: "A rapidly changing jet orientation in the star mass black hole V404 Cygni"
Space Science at ESA
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IAS researchers detect evidence of 6 new binary black-hole mergers on LVC data
Washington DC (SPX) April 26, 2019
Scholars of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) recently presented a paper announcing the discovery of six new binary black-hole mergers that exceed the detection thresholds defined by the LIGO-Virgo Collaboration (LVC) group responsible for the first direct observation of gravitational waves on February 11, 2016.
Taking data made public by the LVC, the IAS team applied a unique set of signal processing techniques to detect these cataclysmic events, nearly doubling the total number of signals.