Black Hole Discovered Which Emits Brilliant Light

Black Hole Eats-Star

When a recently-discovered black hole was discovered which emits brilliant light, scientists were baffled, and scrambled to explain how a black hole could shine with such brilliance. According to a new study, the black-hole system called ULX-1 in the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy is twice as bright as astronomers had believed one could ever be.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (or M101) is 22 million light-years from Earth. The amazing brightness of the black hole there might force astronomers to rethink theories about black holes and how they radiate energy.

According to the study’s coauthor, Joel Bregman of the University of Michigan, the black hole “is an extremely luminous one that is shining as brightly as it possibly can.”

The black-hole system in the Pinwheel Galaxy is made up of a star and a black hole which orbit each other. ULX stands for “ultraluminous X-ray source.” The black hole generates a massive amount of extremely bright x-ray light. The light comes from material that the black hole is consuming, as it spirals down into its depths.

The black hole is behaving somewhat like an intermediate black hole, but intermediate black holes are between 100-1,000 times the mass of the sun. However, the new study, which appears in the journal Nature, suggests that the black hole is just 20 times the mass of the sun.This mass would put it on rather the small side for a black hole, yet it consumes matter at the rate a larger one would.

Jifeng Lui  of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing led the research team which studied ULX-1. They used two NASA spacecraft, the chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii to conduct their research.

By knowing through spectroscopic analysis using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph in Hawaii that the companion star in the ULX-1 black hole system is a large, hot type of star known as a Wolf-Rayet, the research team was able to infer the mass of the star from its luminosity. They inferred that it was 19 times the sun’s mass.

Lui and his team learned that the black hole and the Wolf-Rayet star orbited each other every 8.2 days. This fact enabled the research team to estimate that the mass of the black hole was somewhere between 20-30 times the sun’s mass.

The low mass of the black hole caused Lui and the other researchers to theorize that the black hole was a stellar one. Stellar black holes form after a star dies and collapses in upon itself. A middleweight black hole has yet to be definitely discovered, though it’s theorized that they exist at the heart of most — and possibly all — galaxies.

Ultraluminous X-ray sources have often been taken to be evidence of intermediate-sized black holes, but Lui said in a statement that their findings might “turn the trend” of this assumption by many astronomers occurring so much in the future.

How is the black hole in ULX-1 system emitting so much light?

Lui and his research team theorize that the black hole is emitting light from the stellar wind (stream of charged particles) that it’s consuming from its companion star.

In concluding that the black hole in the ULX-1 system is a stellar one, Lui and his team has demonstrated that “our understanding of the black hole radiation mechanism is incomplete and needs revision.”

According to another member of the research team, Stephen Justham — also of the National Astronomical Observatories of China — low mass black holes like the one in the ULX-1 system must consume energy at close to the theoretical limits that are possible in order for it to release as much energy as has been detected.

Theoretical models of how matter falls into and is consumed by black holes which radiate forth energy show that soft X-rays come mostly from what’s known the “accretion disk a disk which encircles the black hole).” Hard X-rays, on the other hand, are emitted by a high-energy corona which is around the disk.

One of the many puzzling aspects about ULX-1 is that, based upon the size of the black hole, that the region around it should be marked by hard X-rays and be more complex in its structure — but, that isn’t the case with the black hole in the ULX-1 system.

According to Jifeng Lui, current theories don’t adequately explain how the black hole in the ULX-1 system is behaving. Mechanisms mentioned in these theories that “allow such low-mass black holes to eat this quickly and shine this brightly” also “leave signatures in the emitted X-ray spectrum.” But, these sorts of signatures aren’t displayed by the black hole in ULX-1.

The study’s coauthor, Paul Crowther of the Univerity of Sheffield in the UK, said that as it takes so long for us to get light and images from a galaxy as far away as the Pinwheel Galaxy, the Wolf-Rayet star is also probably dead, “so this system is now likely a double black hole binary.”

Written by: Douglas Cobb


12 Responses to "Black Hole Discovered Which Emits Brilliant Light"

  1. Sanket   August 13, 2015 at 4:11 am

    What are these lights called……….. I mean the black holes emitting this light.

  2. Johnny   December 31, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Black holes do not exist. Because the correct Ricci tensor gives the wrong Einstein gravitational field equation.

  3. Douglas Cobb   December 1, 2013 at 11:47 am

    It’s the matter/energy that the black hole is consuming that is resulting in the light astrophysicists, astronomers, etc. are seeing on Earth. The black hole is not, in itself, the source of the light; but, since the light is coming from the black hole, I wrote in the headline that it is being emitted from the black hole. As far as “theories” go, I think I used the term correctly, as the theories about black holes of this type don’t seem to fully explain this particular black hole.

    • Nate   December 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Maybe black holes are the explanation to how planets and stars are formed. I mean really nobody know how planets and stars are created. Likewise nobody knows a whole lot about black holes and what happens to objects or energy pulled into them. Just maybe this is a star forming from this black hole while other black holes are producing planets. If black holes have such a strong gravitational pull wouldn’t that produce the materials and energy required to create a star or planet. To me that would make the most sense.

  4. Charlie (@w1z111)   December 1, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Hmmm…so maybe black holes are really “pure light”, and we’re just seeing it in an early stage of ‘maturity’. “Pure light” might not emit “visible light” as we know it; and perhaps it emits various spectral wavelengths as it evolves into that purity, y’know? I’m just sayin’…

  5. Norman Allen   December 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Could black holes be portals among parallel universes, sort of like Swiss cheese, where matter from one universe is sucked into another, A black hole in one universe turns into white rod spewing light/matter into the other…..

  6. jfx   December 1, 2013 at 7:46 am

    just when they believed they knew a bit more about ‘black holes’ – turns out Mother Nature and the Creator throws them a curve. It’s neither black nor a hole. Back to the drawing boards boys and girls.Nothing to see here.

  7. Albert Benko   December 1, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Say what you want – I’m glad science is still being funded!
    Keep working at it!

  8. jeffrey craig mcmahan   December 1, 2013 at 6:41 am

    “According to the study’s coauthor, Joel Bregman of the University of Michigan, the black hole “is an extremely luminous one that is shining as brightly as it possibly can.” cite from article.

    Ahh, it must be one of the Illuminati. my humorous and witty response

  9. stroyde   December 1, 2013 at 6:20 am

    “Experts” is an overloaded and abused term really. Anyway, they don’t think “exactly” as you describe. Rather on Newton’s terms, they don’t frame hypotheses, but have to go with something until something can’t be accounted for. It’s their job you see. In science, one says instead “only a hypothesis”, at least in the natural sciences.

  10. Richard Sauder   December 1, 2013 at 3:54 am

    It is interesting how some “experts” seem to think they know exactly what black holes are “supposed to do” when in reality, the whole concept is only a theory. Of course, according to current understanding of black holes, they are not holes at all but rather, the most dense and solid matter possible. I take issue with authoritative language in news accounts when many astronomers claim that we know NOTHING about over 90% of what the universe is composed of.

    • j hill   December 1, 2013 at 10:01 am

      “it’s only a theory”… Geez, I wish people would understand what a theory actually is. A theory is just short of a law (indisputable). Theories can change with new data. However, I must agree that news coverage of scientific news is often either overblown or understated, not just reported. Too much news is editorialized.


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