The Hubble Space Telescope, operated by NASA and ESA, is fantastic for spotting objects residing in distant parts of the space. The black holes, which are impossible to see, give their position thanks to the galaxies that often surround them, but a new study revealed a black hole with a disc of material that, according to what we think black holes, should not even not be there.
The black hole is at the heart of galaxy NGC 3147, a spiral galaxy located 130 million light-years from Earth. Because of the status of the galaxy, researchers could have guessed that the black hole was essentially starving, but the presence of a physical disk calls into question this hypothesis.
Active galaxies that feed the supermassive black holes at their center often produce a ring of debris that surrounds the black hole. When the material gets too close, it is engulfed, but in less active galaxies, the black holes at their center do not have the gravitational power to continuously draw material from the surrounding galaxy.
NGC 3147 should to be one of these galaxies, and scientists speculated that his black hole was starving before spotting the material disk moving at a speed greater than 10% of the speed of light around the center. This is the kind of thing that scientists would expect to see surrounding a black hole that fills with materials at the heart of a much more active galaxy.
"The type of disc we see is a reduced quasar that we did not expect to exist," said Stefano Bianchi, first author of a new article on the black hole. Monthly Notices from the Royal Astronomical Societysaid in a statement. "It's the same type of disc that we see in 1000, or even 100,000 times brighter objects. Predictions of current models for very weak active galaxies have clearly failed. "
In the future, the team plans to target similar galaxies to determine if this observation is representative of a bizarre trend or anomaly.