Astronomers spot blast of light from black holes for first time

  • Astronomers spot blast of light from black holes for first time

Astronomers spot blast of light from black holes for first time

The work is based on a very interesting observation made by the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which spotted a massive flare in space that fizzled so quickly that by the time scientists zeroed in on it, it had already faded from view. It was only in May when there was a sudden surge."Supermassive black holes like this one have flares all the time". This might bring about more insights in to the study of blackholes.

The research, which was published in Physical Review Letters, focuses on some interesting aspects of black hole physics and explains how two impossibly dense objects that gobble up light may produce light of their own when they meet. A team using May 2019 data from both the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) and Europe's Virgo detector has spotted what appears to be the first known instance of a "flare of light" from two merging black holes. The two black holes that merged were locked in the disk surrounding a quasar, a supermassive black hole that shoots out blasts of energy. If confirmed, it would be the first known light flare from a pair of colliding black holes. It's right there in the name: black holes.

However, with the existence of a flare and therefore light - which is a form of electromagnetic radiation - it seems that this assumption is incorrect, and that black holes can and do exist in regions with matter that can be heated or lit up.

Matthew Graham, of the California Institute of Technology's (Caltech) Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), said the flare most likely came from a supermassive black hole merger, but the researchers can not be sure.

Artist's depiction of a black hole about to swallow a neutron star. "It is the reaction of the gas to this speeding bullet that creates a bright flare, visible with telescopes", said co-author McKernan, an astrophysics professor with The Graduate Center, BMCC and AMNH.

That detection allowed the ZTF scientists to look for light signals from the location where the gravitational wave signal originated.

"In our study, we conclude that the flare is likely the result of a black hole merger, but we can not completely rule out other possibilities". Researchers say that if their hypothesis is right, the newly formed black hole would be the largest, with a mass of around 150 masses of the Sun. They hope to catch another flare within a couple of years as it is expected to ram into the surrounding disk of gas once more. However, the researchers say they were able to largely rule out other possible causes for the observed flare, including a supernova or a tidal disruption event, which occurs when a black hole essentially eats a star. The authors hypothesize that the two partner black holes, each several dozen times more massive than the Sun, were orbiting a third, supermassive black hole that is millions of times the mass of the Sun and surrounded by a disk of gas and other material.

Their observations show that the behaviour of the black hole was fairly constant over the last 15 years. "Supermassive black holes like this one have flares all the time", co-author Mansi Kasliwal, an astronomer at Caltech, said in the statement. "The reason looking for flares like this is so important is that it helps enormously with astrophysics and cosmology questions".

"This detection is extremely exciting", Daniel Stern, coauthor of a new study on the discovery and an astrophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in a NASA statement.

"There's a lot we can learn about these two merging black holes and the environment they were in based on this signal that they sort of inadvertently created".

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