An international scientific team has directly visualized the feeding process of the central black hole of the Andromeda Galaxy, reports the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), which is leading the work in collaboration with the University of Munich.
This process can be observed through images taken by the Hubble and Splitzer space telescopes, and the results of this research were published in the journal. “Astrophysical Journal”.
The IAC explains that the Andromeda Galaxy, which can be seen with the naked eye and is one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way, has at its center a massive black hole with a mass of more than 100 million Sun masses.
However, this black hole, as well as the hole at the center of the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A*, are the least active, as they emit little radiation.
The activity of a black hole depends on how it is fed, that is, on how the incoming matter approaches its center.
In the case of the Milky Way, this activity is difficult to track because of Earth's proximity to the plane of the galaxy, where the dust veil is very high and crowded with stars; The same does not happen in the Andromeda Galaxy, where it is possible to observe the central black hole with fewer obstructions, adds the IAC.
Now, using combined observations from the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, a scientific team led by the Computational Astrophysics Group of the University Observatory of Munich (USM) and the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) has been able to study how planetesimals work. The black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy is carefully cared for.
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This is how black holes react when they “feed”
Christian Alig, a researcher at the University of California and first author of the article, explains that black holes “eat food eagerly, but at the same time they are sensitive,” and also points out that when they are fed slowly and gradually, they leave no marks on their food; However, when feeding is forced and excessive, they react “violently and aggressively.”
Using two powerful space telescopes, the team discovered that the central black hole of the Andromeda Galaxy is fed by long filaments of dust and gas located far from the galaxy's core.
These filaments gradually spiral toward the black hole, similar to how water rushes down a stream, says Almudena Brito, an IAC researcher and co-author of the study.
The IAC says that although Hubble is able to see the blackness of the filaments' dust in visible light, Spitzer distinguishes the dust filaments themselves, but in the infrared range.
In this way, joint observation with both telescopes could reveal a complete view of the material accretion process surrounding the black hole.
Due to the proximity of the Andromeda Galaxy, Spitzer's observations of its core are the most detailed obtained using this telescope to date, and have a level of resolution comparable to that achieved by the Hubble Telescope.
With information from EFE
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