Feeds

Crazy old black hole's X-ray ultra-belch makes galaxy blush

Space telescope sniffs outburst more powerful than MILLION Suns

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

A powerful blast of X-rays - equivalent to the energy emitted by a MILLION Suns - has been fired out of a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, lighting up the space around it.

A ULX in a spiral galaxy

Credit: Left: ESO/VLT and NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R. Sorla. Right: NASA/STScl/Middlebury College/F. Winkler et al.

Over several years, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has focused on the ultra-luminous X-ray source (ULX), so called because it's pumping out more rays than "normal" binary systems in which a companion star orbits what's left of a collapsed star. This particular ULX, located in a system 15 million light years from Earth, increased its black hole's X-ray brightness by at least 3,000 times.

The sudden uptick in radiation is one of the largest changes in X-rays ever seen for a ULX, which normally don't have dormant periods.

Optical images show a radiant blue source during the X-ray outburst, which was nowhere to be seen before the beaming began, indicating that the black hole's companion is a red giant star.

The black hole's bosom buddy is more than 500 million years old with a mass less than four times the mass of the Sun. Boffins reckon the bright blue emission during the X-ray outburst is the old red's doing because it's caused by a disk around the black hole that glows furiously as it gains more material from the star.

Another flip-flopping ULX was also found in M31 galaxy, and the two together lend weight to the argument that ULX black holes can be much older and more volatile than previously thought.

This black hole could have been formed from a star rich in "metals" - which are any elements heavier than helium - because it's located in a region that's abundant with the stuff. The black hole is also the wrong size for current theoretical models.

Theories suggest that stars packed with metals have a higher mass-loss rate, making them smaller before they collapse so that the resulting black hole is also small. Stars that have collapsed with high metal content are only supposed to be about 15 times smaller than the Sun or more.

However, this black hole could also be so old that it formed before the time that M83 became rich in heavier elements, which would also explain its size. ®

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.