On Wednesday, scientists announced they had evidence of space weather feeding a black hole, as a new telescope shines more light on this fascinating cosmic phenomenon.
Data collected by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescope was used to create the first direct photograph of a weather-feeding black hole. Astronomers published the image of a massive cluster of gas clouds tilting toward the black hole located approximately one billion light-years from Earth.
The research featured in the journal Nature describes the event taking place in a distant galaxy (located in the Abell 2597 Cluster), where the astronomers discovered three clumps of cold gas raining in on a black hole at more than 600,000 miles per hour.
Each of the massive gas clouds contains the material equivalent of a million of Earth’s suns. According to lead author Grant Tremblay, an astronomer with Yale University, this research is the first of its kind to present direct evidence on the concept of black holes feeding on clouds of cold space gas.
“The image we are publishing is effectively an observation of shadows cast by a supermassive black hole as these clumps of gas rain in upon it, like gas falling toward a light bulb,” Tremblay explained.
Previous theories assumed the gas flowing into black holes was leaking in as spherical and smooth and in hot temperatures, but the new research shows that – at least in this galaxy – the feeding process is more chaotic and it definitely includes cold and jumbled up gas.
Tremblay also hopes that he and his co-author on the study, Assis Prof Michael McDonald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will find more examples of such cosmic phenomena to support their theory.
On Monday, MIT researchers also announced they found a new way to photograph a black hole in our own galaxy. With the help of a complex algorithm, the team would be able to compile data collected from dozens of radio telescopes around the globe.
Their project is titled the “Event Horizon Telescope” and its goal is to capture the first real-life image of a black hole. “We think black holes play a really large role in star formation,” Tremblay says.
With their ongoing research, astronomers might “need to rethink how black holes accrete gas and how they interact with their host galaxies.”
Image Source: Mashable