Feeds

Visiting a black hole? Allow plenty of time

200,000 years - at least

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

If you fancy taking a quick trip to the heart of a black hole be sure to allow plenty of time, since an international team of boffins has discovered that even the last leg of such a jaunt could take up to 200,000 years.

Yup, according to an investigation of the "internal motions of gas surrounding the nucleus of the active galaxy NGC1097" (47m light years distant in the southern constellation Fornax), "material as it descends into the core of a galaxy hosting a large black hole... will take about 200,000 years to make a one-way trip through the inner regions of the galaxy and into oblivion."

Or, in fact, longer than the average Northern Line tube trip from Edgeware to Stockwell, as our London readers will be amazed to read.

The team behind this revelation - made up of Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann, UFRGS, Brazil; David Axon and Andrew Robinson, RIT, USA; Alessandro Capetti, INAF-Turin, Italy, Alessandro Marconi, INAF-Florence, Italy; Rogemar Riffel, UFRGS, Brazil, and Claudia Winge, Gemini Observatory, Chile - used Chile's Gemini South Telescope and "sophisticated spectroscopic techniques" to probe clouds of material within 10 light years of the galactic centre - presumed home of the black hole.

Specifically, the scientists "measured the streaming motions toward the black hole by using two-dimensional spectroscopy to capture spectral data at several thousand points surrounding the nucleus of the galaxy". The technique is known as "integral field spectroscopy", which "takes light from many different parts of the telescope's field simultaneously and splits the light from each region into a rainbow or spectrum of light".

The upshot of it is, as team member Thaisa Storchi Bergmann of Brazil's Instituto de Fisica put it: "The resolution of this data is unprecedented when you look at how we were able to isolate so many different points around the nucleus of this galaxy and acquire a spectrum for each point at once.

"This paints an incredibly detailed picture of the region around the black hole and gives us a new glimpse at something we could only imagine before."

Project top dog Kambiz Fathi of Rochester Institute of Technology further explained: "It is the first time anyone has been able to follow gas this close to the supermassive black hole in the center of another galaxy.

"The work of our team confirms the main theories that have never been observationally confirmed at this level. We have been able to show that it is possible to measure these velocities down to these scales."

The velocity in question is, the team reckons, 52 kilometers (31 miles) per second - the speed at which spiral arms were pulling gas towards the nucleus at around 1,000 light years from the centre.

That's still a way out from the black hole's core, and a good few years from a final dateline with destiny. Fathi expands: "When we extrapolate our last data points, about 30 light-years from the black hole, this is where we find that it would take about 200,000 years for the gas to travel the last leg of its one-way journey to the supermassive black hole."

There's more background detail to the team's work in the press release here. The research findings will appear in a future issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.