The Black hole 'eat' matter

  • Shaibana Sherafudheen
  • Published: DECEMBER 24, 2018
The Black hole 'eat' matter

Black holes are some of the strangest and most fascinating objects found in outer space. They are extremely dense, with strong gravitational force of attraction that even light will not be able to escape from its clutches if it comes anywhere near it.

There is a gravitational singularity in the center of the black hole which is a one-dimensional point that contains a huge mass in an infinitely small space, where density and gravity reaches an infinite point and space-time curves infinitely, where the laws of physics as we know them to cease to exist.

The numerous theories of physics and astrophysics have fed the popular perception that black holes function to engulf the luckless particles that venture too close to them, out in the space. Black holes are famous for their muscle, which is believed to possess an intense gravitational pull that can gobble up the entire stars and launch streams of matter into space almost at the speed of light.

A 40-mile-wide black hole 8,000 light years from Earth named V404 Cygni yielded the first accurate measurements of the magnetic field that circles the most intense gravity in the universe. It was found that the magnetic energy surrounding the black hole was about 400 times lower than previously perceived.

The study threw light into the understanding of how the black hole magnetism works, giving us an insight into how matter behaves under the most extreme conditions — It provides knowledge that could broaden the limits of nuclear fusion power and GPS systems.

The study has also helped scientists solve the half-century-old mystery of how “jets” of particles travelling at nearly the speed of light is shot out of black holes’ magnetic fields, while everything else is sucked into their depths.
According to some of these theories, this matter will never re-emerge from the dark body, they are considered to have effectively been sucked out of existence. And certain other hypotheses, indicate that certain particles sprayed out from time to time may contribute to the ‘jets’ that black holes appear to spew out. These jets deliver huge bursts of radiation such as X-rays.

Black hole V404 Cygni
V404 Cygni belongs to the constellation of Cygnus. It contains a black hole and an early K giant star companion with a mass slightly smaller than the Sun. The star and the black hole orbit each other every 6.47129 day fairly close range.

Long back it was thought that the jets delivered X-rays of energy, which was equivalent to tens of thousands of electron-volts. But the jet emitted by the black hole, V404 Cygni, were observable by Earth instruments in 2015. Now, the same cosmic feature is back with another information.
This time, the black hole showed signs of going to ‘feed’ or draw matter around itself into its center. This hint gave scientists at the NASA Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) to arrange the viewing of this event. The observation was done through SOFIA’s High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+). It was also well-positioned to garner vital information and accurate data on what actually happens when a black hole engulfed something, and how it did so.
Cygnus, the galaxy to which V404 belongs to is a relatively loud and active galaxy in terms of ultraviolet (UV) to infrared emissions. Hence it makes it particularly easy for human instruments to capture data from within it.
It was believed that the coronal magnetic field was a significant factor that contributed to the ability of the black holes to ‘eat ‘ matter. The corona forms the ‘core’ of a black hole and it partly relates to a star in many aspects. One of it is the magnetic field surrounding it, which was believed to have the power of drawing matter into it or the factor behind the pull of the black hole.
But the data shows that this magnetic field is considerably weaker than previously thought. According to the latest studies the coronal magnetic field of V404 Cygni has been measured at about 461 Gauss which is thousands of times weaker to support the pull of the black hole as considered.
Hence, the study has diverted to a different phenomenon of black holes in order to explain the ‘eat’ matter
This particular area of the black hole has been identified as the torus, one that surrounds the corona, containing dust and debris from the black hole’s galaxy. The astrophysical data suggest that extremely strong magnetic fields are found to apply to the torus, which may act on it to support its structure and keep its colossal ring of dust in place. Hence the magnetic field of the torus may trap the matter to be engulfed close enough to the corona.

Painting the Black Hole with Light
SOFIA’s findings are consistent with other observations of black hole tori, and that the emissions are being scattered off the dust in the torus of V404 Cygni. A large and dust-strewn magnetic field in the corresponding area is one of the best evidence that - the torus or its magnetic field was related to the mass closer to the heart of the V404 Cygni. It also supports theories that the material which a black hole feeds on, is drawn towards this center until it can be expelled in the form of a jet of high-energy X-rays.

Shaibana Sherafudheen Research Analyst
  • Last updated: Dec 4, 2018 16:05 IST
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