A paper published in the Science Journal details how a team of researchers is about to crack the mysterious black hole code. The research has been making waves within the science media community, with some claiming that the secret to how they grow has been discovered. Although this is not altogether true, the scientists have said that they are one step closer to figuring out just what exactly makes these black holes, invisible to the naked human eye, tick. The paper pursues new thinking and ideas about the growth and behavior of supermassive black holes with new data that has emerged on this very subject thanks to a special telescope in eastern Australia, the CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope.
Before continuing, lets understand what a black hole is, and then what a supermassive black hole is.
Simply put, a black hole is an area of space that has an incredibly intense gravitational field, so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. Gravity is pulling so intensely that not even light can be emitted, or “get out”. What often happens when a star is dying is that the matter gets squeezed and compacted into a tiny space. Since light cannot be emitted, black hole are invisible to the human eye. A supermassive Black hole is equivalent to a super-size of the black hole. The SMBH is the largest type of black hole, on the order of hundreds and thousands of solar masses. It has been noted that any active galaxy requires a “compact energy source of enormous strength.” The black hole is a likely suspect as the source of this great power for an active galaxy. Most active galaxies, with present research, have at least one of these.
The galaxy our home, the earth, has a black hole. It has a Supermassive Black hole too. These are largely still a massive mystery for the science community and the recent findings from the Parkes radio telescope promise to reveal more about these space enigmas. One question being answered is, how did they get so big, and how do they grow?
So that’s two questions, but essentially they are two ways of answering the same thing.
This is the first time gravitational waves have conveyed information that enables us to study another piece of the universal pie.
Dr. Ramesh Bhat says that where it was previously impossible to directly observe black holes, the new tool now enables scientists and astronomers to discover ground breaking information about black holes.
Okay, but what exactly is a gravitational wave and how could they help us crack the conundrum of the black hole code?
A gravitational wave is akin to a ripple in space-time. Albert Einstein predicted that massive bodies changing speed or direction generate these gravitational waves. Picture bodies like a pair of black holes orbiting each other. This then creates a gravitational wave that ripples outwards, like a disturbance in a still pool of water after a leaf has dropped onto its surface and ripples are sent across the surface. Like star-crossed lovers, the black holes of two merging galaxies are destined to meet. The merging of two black holes create gravitational waves that ripple throughout the universe, like the soft hum of a crowd. It is at the frequency of this soft hum which scientists are now able to detect. As black holes get closer to meeting and converging, they emit gravitational waves that give off a frequency that can be detected.
The Parkes Pulsar Timing array (PPTA), the telescope in east Austrailia mentioned earlier, is providing almost 20 years of what the scientists call “timing data.” Although this is not enough to perceive the gravitational waves entirely, the team admits to being one step closer. Results from the PPTA has revealed that the gravitational waves’ background rate is very low. This is significant because a low strength could mean that either of the following three factors are have and/or are at a limit: how often supermassive black holes merge, how large they are, and how distant they are.
The new data has enabled the researchers to test four different models of a growing black hole. The results proved that emergence of black holes are not the only source of mass gain for a black hole. The other three possibilities are still viable.
Equipped with this new data scientists are starting to discover possible answers to the behavior of black holes, an exciting step towards understanding this universe and cracking the seemingly hidden code of the black hole.