‘Heartbeat’ of a black hole re-observed after more than a decade being first discovered
Scientists have confirmed the first-ever discovered ‘heartbeat’ of a black hole is still strong even after more than a decade of being first observed in 2007. According to the scientists, the heartbeat is a repeating signal of energy radiating from the black hole at regular intervals.
The signals were observed with satellites for eight times between 2002 and 2011, after which it could no longer be observed due to restricted visibility caused by the sun, preventing the scientists from monitoring the heartbeat for many years.
The black hole was once again observable in 2018 using the XMM-Newton X-ray satellite. And scientists were astonished to find that the black hole is still emitting the repeated signal every hour. This is the most long-lived heartbeat ever observed.
These signals can tell us about the size and structure of the matter around the black hole’s event horizon.
The supermassive black hole observed in this study is located at the center of a galaxy, RE J1034+396, which is 600 million light-years away from Earth.
These observations appeared in a recent study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society by scientists from the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, and Durham University, UK.
Scientists believe that these signals are emitted when a black hole feeds onto matter from the accretion disk but these are rarely seen as a repeating, heartbeat-like signal.
According to Professor Chris Dore, in Durham University’s Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, who collaborated on the study, “The main idea for how this heartbeat is formed is that the inner parts of the accretion disc are expanding and contracting.“
He added, “The only other system we know which seems to do the same thing is a 100,000 times smaller stellar-mass black hole in our Milky Way, fed by a binary companion star, with correspondingly smaller luminosities and timescales.“
“This shows us that simple scalings with black hole mass work even for the rarest types of behaviour.”
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