Scientists Closer to Uncovering Universe's Most Energetic Objects
This model states that all active galactic nuclei are essentially the same but that some appear from Earth's perspective to have different properties.
Some appear very bright because the cloud's ring-like position doesn't obscure the gas falling into the black hole from our perspective, while others appear dark because the clouds block our view of what's really going on.
The core of the active galaxy Messier 77 is a dark one, but new observations suggest that it actually has the same qualities as the bright one.
"The dust and gas in these clouds are probably blown out of the atmospheres of stars at a larger distance - hundreds of light years - from the black hole, and are falling in towards the center under the influence of the black hole gravity," said Violeta Gamez Rosas, a doctoral student in astronomy at Leiden University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.
"Some clouds spiral in towards the black hole while others are pushed up into a 'fountain' that falls back onto the galaxy. Because of the dust, it is very difficult to see with telescopes what is going on in this region, but it is easier at infrared wavelengths than at normal visible wavelengths because the dust does not absorb infrared light as much," said study co-author Walter Jaffe, a Leiden University astronomy professor.
The Milky Way's supermassive black hole, which has a mass 4 million times greater than the sun, is currently "fairly quiet," Gamez Rosas said, but may have previously been more active like Messier 77.
Gamez Rosas expressed satisfaction studying active galactic nuclei.
"A lot of it is pure fascination with explosions on such gigantic scales, and the challenge of trying to explain them with what we think we know about physics," Gamez Rosas said.
Observations give scientists new clarity about the most energetic objects in the universe.
- US Insists Russia Should Be Expelled from G20 in Bali
- Boeing 737 Carrying 132 People Crashes in China's Forest
- Fed Raises Benchmark Interest Rate
- Russian General Dies at Hands of Ukrainian Sniper
- Russia's Economy Worsens, Ukraine Claims Opposite
- Saudi Arabia Fosters Ties with Russia Despite Ukraine Crisis