Written by Niyati Kanotra, a grade 12 student.
What are black holes exactly? Speaking in scientific terms, black holes are basically found in space and have a very strong gravitational force. So strong are they that even light cannot escape from them. Black holes are like space monsters that feed on interstellar gas and stars coming in contact with it. These were initially predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The theory of general relativity says that after a massive star dies, it leaves behind a remnant core and if the remnant star’s mass is three times more than three times the mass of the sun, it overwhelms everything else thus forming a black hole. Also, space does not consist of only one black hole but, according to scientists, there are ten million to a billion black holes.
According to the new study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters in April, Japanese researchers have detected a black hole, called Sagittarius A*, about four million times more massive than our sun blinking in our direction. This was found with the help of Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope operating in Chile. The researchers used ALMA to obtain high-quality data of radio-wave intensity variation of Sagittarius A* for 10 days, 70 minutes per day. We all know only a tiny bit about the mysterious black holes because they are hard to capture as they even absorb the light around them. Accertion disk is a halo around the black hole consisting of dust, hot gasses and debris, according to scientists the flickering discharge of something, especially gas or radiation are originating within the area of the disk closer to the black hole itself. These fast-moving disks create hotspots within themselves which, according to scientists, are the ones blinking at us as the move closer to us in their orbit of the black hole.
Scientists observed Sagittarius A* for four nights in the month of April and May. On the third night out of all the four nights, they observed it near-infrared which is the most convenient way to depict its variability. The scientists noticed the black hole unleashing bright radiation and that’s not it, they even observed large drops in the brightness level. Scientists at the University of California claimed that they have been observing the black hole for years yet they have never seen a phenomenon like this. No wonder it has left them and the whole world wonderstruck.
This discovery has helped astronomers understand more about objects like AGN better. AGN, also called Active Galactic Nuclei, give out non-thermal type of discharge of something, especially gas or radiation and are also strong emitters of X- rays, radio, and ultraviolet radiation. Their luminosity can vary on short timescales. AGN are considered to be the most powerful and long-living objects in the universe.
Black holes are pretty fascinating, right? They seem to be so unreal but after years and years of research, the greatest of minds have proved its existence. The universe is endless and full of surprises and who knows what is next. Though don’t ever think of going near a black hole, we could be looking for you forever!
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