Science/Tech

Hubble Finds Mysterious Black Hole That Challenges Einstein's Theory Of Relativity

Since the release of the first official image of a black hole, astronomers are getting more information about this mysterious object. The Hubble Space Telescope discovered another supermassive black hole that is so unique scientists said it should not exist. 

The black hole appears in the center of the galaxy NGC 3147, 130 million light-years away from Earth. Scientists described the black hole unique because of an unusual thin disc encircling it. 

That is because previous studies suggested that black holes in certain galaxies like NGC 3147 should be starving due to lack of gravitationally pulled material to indulge in. Scientists said that the disc around the newly-found black hole should not be there. 

In addition, another surprising finding is that the thin material even mimics the characteristics of larger discs in other active galaxies. But scientists did not raise further questions about the weird black hole of NGC 3147. 

They instead looked at it as an opportunity to test Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. 

"We've never seen the effects of both general and special relativity in visible light with this much clarity," Marco Chiaberge, one of the scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA), said in a statement

Studying The Unique Black Hole

Based on images from Hubble, the thin disc around the black hole appears extremely attached to an intense gravitational field. This then alters the light from the disc. 

The black hole’s gravitational field with its mass of nearly 250 million times that of the Sun makes the disc rotate at more than 10 percent the speed of light. That kind of speed makes gas brighter but the light struggles to escape. 

"This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how we see the photons of light," Stefano Bianchi, study author from Università degli Studi Roma Tre in Italy.

He described the black hole’s disc as “a scaled-down quasar” that his team did not expect to exist. With the discovery, Bianchi said predictions made through existing models for very faint active galaxies “clearly failed."

"It's the same type of disc we see in objects that are 1000 or even 100 000 times more luminous,” he noted. 

The team aims to continue to study NGC 3147’s black hole using Hubble. They also hope to find similar discs around low-luminosity black holes in other active galaxies.

NGC 3147 Artist's impression of the peculiar thin disc of material circling a supermassive black hole at the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away. ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

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