Feeds

Breakneck star orbits black hole at record speed

Two million km/h SPEED DEMON

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Vid The ESA's XMM-Newton has turned up a star and black hole, separated by around a million kilometres, orbiting each other in just 2.4 hours.

The pair outstrips the previous record of 3.2 hours for an orbit, held by Swift J1753.5-0127. The speed at which each of the two objects move is pretty impressive. Since they orbit a common centre of gravity, the star – with a mass of just 20 percent that of the sun – has the greater distance to travel. It rips along at more than two million km/h, the fastest star ever observed in an X-ray binary system, while the black hole, MAXI J1659-152, limps along at a mere 150,000 km/h.

MAX J1659-152 and its companion are part of the Milky Way, but have found themselves in a high orbital plane, out of the main disk of the galaxy.

“These high galactic latitude locations and short orbital periods are signatures of a potential new class of binary system, objects that may have been kicked out of the Galactic plane during the explosive formation of the black hole itself,” says Dr Erik Kuulkers of ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain in the ESA's announcement.

ESA animation illustrating the high-speed orbit

The pair were first spotted on September 25, 2010 by NASA's Swift space telescope, in what was first thought to be a gamma ray burst. Japan's MAXI telescope on the ISS caught the same phenomenon later that day.

Other observations, including those made by XMM-Newton, revealed that the X-rays were emitted by matter the black hole is ripping from its companion. A 14.5 hour observation by XMM-Newton showed dips in the emission, caused by the black hole's accretion disk obscuring the X-rays during the system's rotation. Those dips set the orbital period at 2.4 hours.

Dr Kuulkers is lead author of a paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics. The pre-press version was posted at Arxiv here. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.