Astrophysicists from York University in Canada have detected an undocumented kind of quasar where gas seems to be getting drawn into a black hole. This may not sound astonishing, but present theories say that isn't supposed to happen.
Quasars are energetic and tremendously bright discs of hot gas that surround supermassive black holes. They're also famous as galactic nucleuses. The Milky Way also has one of them at its center. All the junk that's quickly spinning down the drain hole procedures a dense disc with a radius that's larger than Earth's orbit around the Sun and a temperature that's more boiling hot than the surface of a star. They are so incredibly bright that they can truly be seen across the visible universe, building them one of the most glowing things known to science.
Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Observations indicate that this gas gets driven away from the black hole by the powerful heat and light of the quasar, and it does so at unbelievable velocities, occasionally reaching up to the 20% the speed of light. This generates cosmic winds that can disturb the galaxy surrounding the quasar.
Gas in the disc will ultimately fall into the black hole to power the quasar. But researchers have never actually seen it curving into the black hole over the disc. It would be like viewing an object take a straight path into a drain hole instead of rotating around and around till it touches bottom. But this is precisely what the astrophysicists detected.
After observing the data produced by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and the SDSS-III Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, a team of researchers directed by York University Associate Professor Patrick Hall observed some weird behavior in 17 quasars of distant galaxies: gas that's dropping into black holes at great velocity. Their interpretations show that it only occurs in about 1 in every 10,000 quasars, so it symbolizes a totally new type of quasar black hole.
The detection was made by observing at the Doppler shift for light, which told the researchers which path the gas was traveling in and at what speed. So the question is why is this happening? The scientists have two descriptions.
First, the relatively clear one: Isn't that what's thought to happen to gas close to the black holes!? Even light cannot escape black holes, so why would gas be immune to weird and irregular behaviors? And certainly, Hall declares that it's essentially weird to not see this kind of conduct in maximum, if not all, quasars.
The second theory is that the gas is not truly falling into the black hole. It's just circling around it just above the disc of hot gas, and slowly being pressed away from the black hole. This would clarify why the Doppler analyses show the gas both moving away and towards us.
Hall's team is revising the book on quasars. You can read the whole study at the Royal AstronomicalSociety.
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