Scientists use x-ray 'light echoes' to scope out black holes

Astronomers found that the corona surrounding a black hole shifts rapidly in size.


NSFW    CAMBRIDGE, BRITAIN — Astronomers have found a novel way to explore the regions around a black hole.

In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, researchers say that they were able to use x-ray echoes around a black hole to map the celestial body's surroundings.

According to the University of Cambridge's news release that black hole's gravitational force is extremely powerful and causes massive spatial distortions around itself.

As objects caught in the black hole pull are drawn to the event horizon, they heat up and radiate x-rays that "echo and reverberate" against nearby gas.

Using the European Space Agency's XMM x-ray observatory, the team was able to observe x-ray echoes of a black hole at the heart of a distant galaxy.

The echoes allowed the team to determine the spin and mass of the black hole.

The team also made the unexpected discovery that a black hole's the corona--or hot electrons above the accretion disk--changed its size often and quickly.

By raising and lowering the roof of the comic echo chamber, the corona's shift in size affected the light echoes and changed their quality.
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