At a speed of 30% of the speed of light, matter was falling into a black hole. How did the scientists at the University of Leicester observe this phenomenon? They used data from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory and got a peek into a constellation, which is one billion light-years away.
Professor Ken Pounds and his colleagues reported their findings in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The team of researchers used the data from the Observatory and looked at a Seyfert galaxy – which has a black hole as a nucleus. They looked at X-ray spectra from PG1211+143 (the name of the galaxy) – which can be found in the constellation Coma Berenices.
“The galaxy we were observing with XMM-Newton has a 40-million-solar-mass black hole which is very bright and evidently well fed,” Professor Pounds explained.
He added that they had seen this black hole about 15 years ago. At that time, observations showed the black hole was over-fed – thus creating a powerful wind, which was captured by the observatories. Now, it created another image, explained by the authors:
“While such winds are now found in many active galaxies, PG1211+143 has now yielded another ‘first,’ with the detection of matter plunging directly into the black hole itself.”
The team found that the spectra was red-shifted, and matter fell into the black hole at a huge speed – almost 62,000 miles per second (30% of the speed of light).
The professor explained that the gas around the black hole has almost no rotation, and it can be seen around it at a distance of about 20 times the black hole’s size:
“We were able to follow an Earth-sized clump of matter for about a day, as it was pulled towards the black hole, accelerating to a third of the velocity of light before being swallowed up by the hole.”
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