This Could Be the Breakthrough Black Hole Research Has Been Waiting For

Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - 2:27PM
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Wednesday, 22 November 2017 - 2:27PM
This Could Be the Breakthrough Black Hole Research Has Been Waiting For
Image credit: NASA
One of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe, black holes are the subject as much debate as they are fascination for science. But thanks to a new discovery, that could very well change today. 

Scientists have always had a hard time spotting black holes, especially when the gravitational monsters draw in everything around—including the light that Earth researchers need to see in space to help differentiate between the blackness of space and the void of a black hole. 
 
One way those searching for the otherworldly gravity goliaths is to look for what they are sucking in; while a black hole digests material, the debris fires off subatomic particles and radiation that scientists can identify. Unfortunately, it seems the black hole's hallmark leftovers are mimicked by another space phenomena that is a different thing altogether. 
 
The pretender is called PSR J1023+0038, an entity known as a transitional millisecond pulsar (tMSP). The core of a deceased star, or a neutron star, can spin and emit beams of electrons and photons at a clockwork rate—this object is best known as a pulsar.



Using NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Very Large Array radio telescope network, a group of researchers has discovered that unlike other pulsars, PSR J1023 spins as fast as a thousand times per second, all the while siphoning gas from any other nearby star. The result can be emissions that resemble the eating patterns of black holes. 
 
Scientists found that when PSR J1023+0038 produced more in the way of X-rays, its release of radio emissions dipped, indicating it was drawing from its companion star. On the other hand, a rise in radio emanations correlated with a reduction in X-rays, which means a reduction in gravity and a stop in its taking from the neighbor star. 
 
If this seems like a lot of attention given to one particular sidestep, it's not. Understanding how PSR J1023+0038 works could be a big help in determining it and other transitional millisecond pulsars from black holes. Both share stellar origins, and both swipe from neighboring stars. 

"This finding opens the possibility that some candidate low-luminosity BH LMXBs (low-mass X-ray binary black holes) observed only for a short period of time may actually be tMSP impostors caught in an X-ray low mode, which implies that additional lines of observational evidence are needed to unambiguously establish the nature of the compact object," said lead author and Columbia University astronomer Slavko Bogdanov.
 
In other words, some of the objects currently believed to be black holes may be up for review.
 
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Space
Astrophysics
Black Holes
Is This the Breakthrough Black Hole Research Has Been Waiting For?
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