Archive for December 13, 2012

Astronomers Discover “Missing Link” Of Black Holes

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: Wolfgang Pietsch, Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (MPE)

Credit: Wolfgang Pietsch, Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik (MPE)

The discovery of a bingeing black hole in our nearest neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, has shed new light on some of the brightest X-ray sources seen in other galaxies, according to new work co-authored by astronomers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research’s Curtin University node.

Using a suite of Earth-orbiting X-ray telescopes, including NASA’s Swift and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellites, a large international team of astronomers watched as the X-ray emission from the black hole – found over 2million light years away – brightened and faded over the course of six months. Astronomers have spent years debating whether these are black holes just a few times the mass of the Sun which are gorging themselves on gas from an orbiting star, or whether they are more massive black holes eating more sedately.

Lead author Dr Matthew Middleton, who led the latest research while at Durham University, said the findings helped solve this debate. Dr Middleton, now based at the University of Amsterdam, said: “The black hole we observed in Andromeda is the missing link. Our observations tell us that this ultraluminous X-ray source – and by extension, many others – is just a run-of-the-mill black hole, only about ten times the mass of the Sun, that is swallowing material as fast as it can.”

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