Astronomers discovered X-rays from behind a supermassive black hole


“This is a very exciting result,” said Edward Cackett, an astronomer at Wayne State University, who was not involved in the study. “Although we have seen the characteristics of X-ray echoes before, we have not been able to separate the echoes from behind black holes and bend into our line of sight. It will allow a better mapping of how things fall into black holes and how black holes bend them. The time and space around.”

The release of energy from black holes, sometimes in the form of X-rays, is a ridiculous extreme process. And because supermassive black holes release so much energy, they are essentially the power source that allows galaxies to grow around them. “If you want to understand how galaxies are formed, you really need to understand these processes outside the black hole, these processes can release such a huge amount of energy and energy, these amazingly bright light sources we are studying,” Dan Wilkin Si said, an astrophysicist at Stanford University and the main author of the study.

The focus of the research is the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy called I Zwicky 1 (I Zw 1 for short) about 100 million light-years away from the Earth. In a supermassive black hole like I Zw 1, a large amount of gas falls toward the center (event horizon, basically the point of no return) and tends to flatten into a disk. Above the black hole, the confluence of supercharged particles and magnetic field activity results in the production of high-energy X-rays.

Some of these X-rays hit us directly, and we can use the telescope to observe them normally. But some of them will also shine towards the flat gas disk and will be reflected by it. The rotation speed of I Zw 1 black holes is slower than that of most supermassive black holes, which makes it easier for surrounding gas and dust to fall into and feed into the black hole from multiple directions. This, in turn, leads to a larger X-ray emission, which is why Wilkins and his team are particularly interested.

When Wilkins and his team observed the black hole, they noticed that the corona seemed to “flicker.” These flashes are caused by X-ray pulses reflected by a huge gas disk, and they come from behind the shadow of a black hole-a place that is usually invisible. But because a black hole bends the space around it, X-ray reflections also bend it, which means we can find them.

These signals were discovered using two different space-based telescopes optimized to detect X-rays in space: NuSTAR operated by NASA and XMM-Newton operated by the European Space Agency.

The greatest significance of the new discoveries is that they confirm what Albert Einstein predicted in 1963 as part of his general theory of relativity-that light should bend around huge objects like supermassive black holes.

“This is the first time we really see the direct feature of light bending all the way from behind the black hole into our line of sight. Because The way black holes distort the space around themselves,” Wilkins said.

“Although this observation does not change our overall view of black hole accretion, it is a good confirmation of the role of general relativity in these systems,” said Erin Kara, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved. This research.

Despite the name, supermassive black holes are so far away that even with the most advanced instruments, they appear to be just a single point of light.It’s impossible to take all the images like the scientists captured with the Event Horizon telescope Shadow of super quality blaDrill hole The Milky Way M87.

Therefore, although it is still too early, Wilkins and his team hope that detecting and studying more of these X-ray echoes from behind the bend can help us create partial or even complete images of distant supermassive black holes. In turn, this can help them solve some major mysteries about how supermassive black holes grow, maintain entire galaxies, and create environments where the laws of physics are pushed to their limits.


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