New black hole state could help study role of gravity in galaxy evolution

This could help study the role of strong gravity and the acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction, and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

New Delhi: Indian astronomers have discovered an active galaxy in a very bright state with 10 times more X-ray emissions than normal, which is equivalent to more than 10,000 billion sun, and located five billion light years away, which could help probe the behavior of particles under intense gravity. and acceleration to the speed of light.

This could help to study the role of strong gravity and the acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.

It is believed that every galaxy in the universe harbors a supermassive black hole at its center. In some galaxies, the black hole actively devours a large amount of matter and projects a jet of plasma at almost the speed of light towards us. These are called blazars.

OJ 287 belongs to a class of blazars known as BL Lacertae objects which exhibit very fast and large amplitude variations in flux but barely discernible emission line characteristics.

This class of sources emits throughout the electromagnetic spectrum, a fairly rare phenomenon that requires extreme physical conditions. Thus, the study of such sources tells us about the behavior of matter in an extreme gravitational field where it is difficult for light to escape from the vicinity of the black hole.

Astronomers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, an independent institute of the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology, have been monitoring one of these black hole systems named “OJ 287” since 2015. This source shows repeated improvement in optical brightness almost every 12 years.

“The repeated optical enhancement makes OJ 287 very intriguing because this class of sources does not show any repetitive characteristics in the flux variations. The repeated optical enhancement has made researchers believe that the system harbors a binary black hole,” said one press release from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In 2020, the source was very bright in optical and x-ray bands with an x-ray flux more than 10 times the normal flux (non-active phase). This rash was very different as it was not expected in the models proposed for this source and, therefore, indicated a more complex system and physical conditions.

By studying the extreme brightness shown by OJ 287 in optical and x-ray bands, astronomers led by Pankaj Kushwaha and Alok C. Gupta reported the source in a whole new spectral state.

The team argued that this change of state contains clues to the researcher’s quest to understand how matter behaves under very high gravity and how it accelerates the particle to almost the speed of light – a feat that is beyond the reach of even the most advanced. CERN accelerator.

Research published in ‘The Astrophysical Journal’ tracked details of changes in the source’s optical x-ray emission spectrum over time from 2017 to 2020 – after the source’s second brightest x-ray flare. He revealed how the source gradually began to change its spectral behavior from mid-2018 to the new spectral state in 2020.

The study included data recorded by the ground facility operated by the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, the Mount Abu Observation Facility in the near infrared bands, and NASA’s space satellites – the Niels Gherel Swift satellite. optical, UV and X-ray with gamma ray data from the Fermi satellite, the statement added.

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