Black Hole, This One Is Incredibly BrightBy: Tina Volpe - November 27, 2013
Black holes have fascinated astronomers, physicists and scientists for decades. When NASA was asked when they were discovered, the answer? Black holes cannot be observed directly and therefore cannot be ‘discovered’.
Also from NASA: The indirect evidence for two kinds of black hole is now overwhelming – those of a few solar masses produced by supernovae and much larger ones at the center of some galaxies. The existence of bodies with gravitational fields strong enough to allow nothing to escape has been a topic of speculation for hundreds of years.
Our galaxy, The Milky way has a supermassive black hole at its core.
Black holes are massive stars that have gravitationally compressed (undergone a supernova explosion ) and simply put, collapsed in on itself leaving zero volume and unmeasurable density. They are massive, beyond anything we can imagine, and they puzzle astronomers even today.
The fact that they are black, and envelop everything in their path, makes this one, located about 22 million light-years from Earth in the Pinwheel Galaxy, even more intriguing. It is bright and apparently spewing out jets of light. This phenomenon causes astronomers to question their previous theories of black holes.
“As if black holes weren’t extreme enough, this is a really extreme one that is shining as brightly as it possibly can,” study co-author Joel Bregman of the University of Michigan said in a statement. “It’s figured out a way to be more luminous than we thought possible.”
Since most black holes are black – literally, which is why they are so difficult to detect, this system called ULX-1, consists of a black hole and a companion star that orbit each other. As its name suggests — ULX is short for “ultraluminous X-ray source.”
After a research team, led by Jifeng Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, observed this bright black hole via the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and the Hubble Space Telescope – spectroscopic analysis revealed that the companion star in ULX-1 is a big, hot type known as a Wolf-Rayet star
The researchers also found that the star and the black hole orbit each other once every 8.2 days. Allowing them to estimate the black hole’s mass at between 20 to 30 times the mass of the sun.
It’s possible, researchers said, that the black hole may be feeding off the companion’s stellar wind — the stream of charged particles flowing from its atmosphere. This would explain (if explanation is possible) the brightness escaping from that otherwise black hole.
“Our work shows, based on our conclusion of a stellar mass black hole, that our understanding of the black hole radiation mechanism is incomplete and needs revision,” Liu told Space.com via email.