NASA's telescope uncovers disk around black hole that shouldn't exist

NASA's telescope uncovers disk around black hole that shouldn't exist

Because of the status of the galaxy, researchers would have guessed that the black hole was essentially starving, but the presence of a material disc throws that assumption into question.

Scientists hunting for the more massive gravitational waves from supermassive black hole collisions rely on arrays of individual stars called pulsars that act like metronomes, sending out radio waves in a steady rhythm. Black holes, which are impossible to actually see, give their position away thanks to the galaxies that often surround them, but a new survey has revealed a black hole with a disc of material that, according to what we think we know about black holes, shouldn't even be there.

Each black hole's mass is more than 800 million times that of our sun.

"Even though these two supermassive black holes are already emitting gravitational waves, these waves will". When the astronomers swung Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, essentially the most advanced instrument on board the space telescope, they observed the supermassive black holes.

Titanic Twosome: A Princeton-led team of astrophysicists has spotted a pair of supermassive black holes, roughly 2.5 billion light-years away, that are on a collision course (inset).

Scientist Chiara Mingarelli, from the Flatiron Institute's Center for Computational Astrophysics in New York City, explained that supermassive black hole pairs generate the loudest gravitational waves in the universe.

"It is a major embarrassment for astronomy that we do not know if supermassive black holes merge", said Jenny Greene, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton and co-creator of the examine.

The black hole sits at the heart of galaxy NGC 3147, a spiral galaxy sitting a whopping 130 million light-years from Earth. "The more we can learn about the population of merging black holes, the better we will understand the process of galaxy formation and the nature of the gravitational wave background". Nonetheless, researchers are presently unclear as to the time it takes for black holes to merge - or indeed if they merge at all. This slowdown lasts almost indefinitely and is known as the final parsec problem. But, weaker black holes that don't have enough material to feed on, grow smaller with time and the circling disk is assumed to be absent.

But that's not the end of uncertainties for astronomers. The discovery provides an anchor point for estimating how many supermassive black hole pairs are within detection distance of Earth. But bigger black holes also merge faster, reducing the window during which gravitational waves may be detected.

Supermassive black holes are often discovered at the center of galaxies, together with our own, and through a galaxy merger, they find yourself starting a dance of loss of life, spinning around each other in a near-endless waltz until finally merging.

The ESA's Marco Chiaberge added: "Without Hubble, we wouldn't have been able to see this because the black-hole region has a low luminosity".

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