NASA Discovers "Cosmic Clumpy Doughnuts" Surrounding Black Holes

Sunday, 20 December 2015 - 12:34PM
Space
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Sunday, 20 December 2015 - 12:34PM
NASA Discovers "Cosmic Clumpy Doughnuts" Surrounding Black Holes
Astronomers have known for some time that certain black holes were surrounded by thick, dense disks of gas and dust called tori. Now, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, (NuSTAR) has captured a closer look at these "doughnuts," as NASA calls them, and they are apparently much bumpier than originally thought. 

Until recently, telescope technology was not sufficiently advanced enough to see through the tori, and as a result could not observe any black holes with these features. 
Opening quote
"Originally, we thought that some black holes were hidden behind walls or screens of material that could not be seen through," said lead author Andrea Marinucci of the Roma Tre University in Italy.
Closing quote

The doughnut-shaped disks were proposed by scientists in the 1980s in order to explain why some black holes were obscured from our view and not others. Now, the NuSTAR used its X-Ray vision to penetrate one of the densest doughnuts out there and see inside one for the first time, and the consistency of the disks are different than scientists predicted. "The rotating material is not a simple, rounded doughnut as originally thought, but clumpy," said Marinucci. So less Entenmann's, more old-fashioned. 

Opening quote
"We don't fully understand why some supermassive black holes are so heavily obscured, or why the surrounding material is clumpy," said co-author Poshak Gandhi of the University of Southampton. "This is a subject of hot research."
Closing quote

The disks are called doughnuts, not only as a result of their shapes, but because they're edible. Black holes consume material from the tori that falls in from time to time, which may generate turbulence that causes the "clumpiness" of the doughnuts. Alternatively, the clumpiness may be the result of external factors, such as material emitted from galaxy formation falling onto the doughnut.

Opening quote
"We'd like to figure out if the unevenness of the material is being generated from outside the doughnut, or within it," said Gandhi.
Closing quote


Via The Mary Sue.
Science
NASA
Space
Astrophysics
Black Holes

Load Comments