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Tel Aviv University Team Leader has discovered a new way of "black holes"


PICTURE: This is the artistic impression of a gas wheel that brings a massive black hole to radiation.
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Credit: NASA

Excessive black holes weigh millions to billions of times more than our sun and are at the center of most galaxies. An excessive black hole, several million times the weight of the Sun, is at the heart of our own Milky Way.

Despite what are the usual supermassive black holes, it remains unclear how they grow in such huge proportions. Some black holes are constantly swallowing gas in the neighborhood, some of them suddenly swallow the stars. But even the theory independently explains how supermassive black holes can "turn on" so unexpectedly and grow so fast for a long time.

A new study led by the University of Tel Aviv, published today Natural astronomy finds that some supermassive black holes are triggered to grow, they suddenly eat a large amount of gas in their surroundings.

In February 2017 he discovered the All Sky Automated Survey for a supernova event known as AT 2017bgt. This event was originally considered as a "starvation" or "tide influx" event because the radiation emitted around the black hole increased more than 50 times more clearly than what was recorded in 2004.

However, after extensive observation using the telescope, a team of researchers led by Dr. Bennym Trakhtenbrotem and Dr. Iairem Arcavie, both TAU Raymond & Beverly Sackler School of Physics and Astronomy, concluded that the AT 2017bgt was a new way of "feeding" black holes.

"The sudden lightening of the AT 2017bgt reminds of an inflow of tides," says Dr. Trakhtenbrot. "But we quickly realized that this was something unusual this time, the first track was an additional component of light that had never been seen in the tide inflows."

Dr. Arcavi, who led the data collection, adds, "We've been watching this event for more than a year on a telescope on Earth and in space, and what we've seen did not match what we've seen before."

The observation corresponded to the theoretical predictions of another member of the research team, prof. Hagai Netzer, also from Tel Aviv University.

"In the eighties, we predicted that a black hole that would swallow gas from the surrounding environment could bring the visible elements of light," says Prof. Netzer. "This new result is the first time the process has been seen in practice."

Astronomers from the USA, Chile, Poland and the United Kingdom took part in the observation and analysis used by three different space telescopes, including the new NICER telescope installed on board the International Space Station.

One of the ultraviolet images obtained during the dissemination of the data has proven to be a millionth image occupied by the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory – an event celebrated by NASA, which operates this space mission.

The research team has identified two more recently-reported "black hole" events that have the same emission characteristics as AT 2017bgt. These three events form a new and tantalizing class of re-activation of the black hole.

"We are not yet sure what is the cause of this dramatic and sudden increase in the feed rate of black holes," concludes Dr. Trakhtenbrot. "There are many known ways to accelerate the growth of giant black holes, but they usually occur in much longer time intervals."

"We hope to uncover many other events and watch them with several binoculars working in tandem," says Dr. Arcavi. "It's the only way to finish our image of the growth of black holes, to understand what's going to speed up and perhaps to finally solve the mystery of how these giant monsters are shaping up."


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