Feeds

Visiting a black hole? Allow plenty of time

200,000 years - at least

Top three mobile application threats

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. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
R.I.P. LADEE: Probe smashes into lunar surface at 3,600mph
Swan dive signs off successful science mission
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.