Scientists Observe Material "Wobbling" Around a Black Hole

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 - 2:15PM
Space
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 - 2:15PM
Scientists Observe Material "Wobbling" Around a Black Hole
For the first time ever, researchers have observed the strange "gravitational vortex" that causes matter to "wobble" around a black hole. This discovery not only solves a 30-year mystery, but helps us understand the behavior of material that comes close to black holes. 

Right before matter falls into a black hole, it is heated up to extreme temperatures, sometimes millions of degrees, at which point it emits X-rays. In the 1980's, scientists discovered that the brightness of the X-rays flickered according to a set (but irregular) pattern, which they dubbed Quasi Periodic Oscillation (QPO). In the 90's, researchers hypothesized that this effect was due to a gravitational effect caused by the spin of the black hole, which would create a gravitational vortex. 
Opening quote
"It is a bit like twisting a spoon in honey. Imagine that the honey is space and anything embedded in the honey will be 'dragged' around by the twisting spoon," said Adam Ingram of the University of Amsterdam in a NASA statement. "In reality, this means that anything orbiting a spinning object will have its motion affected."
Closing quote

Ingram had previously theorized that QPO was caused by Lense-Thirring precession, in which the accretion disk surrounding a black hole turns into hot plasma as it is sucked in. In order to test this theory, the researchers used ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's NuSTAR to observe the accretion disk surrounding black hole H 1743–322. They found that the "iron line," or the light emitted from radiation hitting the iron atoms in the accretion disk, was wobbling, which conforms to general relativity's predictions as well as the theory of the Lense-Thirring effect.

Opening quote
"We are directly measuring the motion of matter in a strong gravitational field near to a black hole," said Ingram.
Closing quote

Via Science Alert

Science
NASA
Space
Astrophysics
Black Holes

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