In an article featured on the cover of the journal Science this week, a team of astronomers led by Dr. Roberto Soria at Curtin University, and including ASTRON research fellow Dr. Leith Godfrey, presented the exciting discovery of a black hole that has been blasting out an extremely powerful release of energy, at a much faster rate than previously thought possible, for over 10,000 years.
Published by the editorial team, 24 March 2014
The powerful black hole, classified as a "microquasar" and called MQ1, was discovered in the inner disk of the spiral galaxy M83 (the "Southern Pinwheel"), as part of a detailed study of the various classes of object found in this galaxy. The in‑depth study involves data from the Chandra X‑ray observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, the Australia Telescope Compact Array and the Australian Long Baseline Array.
The newly discovered microquasar provided a unique opportunity to measure both the black hole mass and the amount of energy released from the black hole as matter falls towards it under the force of gravity. The team found that MQ1 is a fairly typical black hole, weighing about ten times the mass of the Sun, but the amount of energy released is much higher than had previously been thought possible.
The paper made the cover of Science magazine.
When material falls towards a black hole, before it goes over the 'event horizon', it emits X‑ray radiation. This radiation pushes back on the material trying to fall into the black hole, and limits the rate at which the material can flow into the black hole, and also limits the rate at which the energy can be released. The discovery of this super‑powered black hole MQ1 has demonstrated that in some cases, energy can be released at a much higher rate than is implied by this limit. The new discovery has strong implications for understanding the processes happening very close to the edge of a black hole that is feeding on the surrounding gas.
The image shows the Hubble space telescope view of the spiral galaxy M83, and the microquasar MQ1 (inset). The blue circle marks the position of the microquasar MQ1 in the inner disk of the galaxy.
You can read the full article here:http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6177/1330.short
A perspective piece 'Testing the Limits of Accretion' here:
M83 ‑ NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (WFC3/UVIS, STScI‑PRC14‑04a). MQ1 inset ‑ W. P. Blair (Johns Hopkins University) & R. Soria (ICRAR‑Curtin). Click here for a high res image.