VIDEO: NASA’s NICER Mission Maps ‘Light Echoes’ of New Black Hole 10 Times the Size of the Sun
By Jeanette Kazmierczak, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center // February 6, 2019
observations give scientists new insights into how material funnels in to the black hole
ABOVE VIDEO: Scientists have mapped the environment surrounding a black hole that is 10 times the mass of the Sun using NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) payload aboard the International Space Station.
(NASA)– Scientists have charted the environment surrounding a stellar-mass black hole that is 10 times the mass of the Sun using NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) payload aboard the International Space Station.
NICER detected X-ray light from the recently discovered black hole, called MAXI J1820+070 (J1820 for short), as it consumed material from a companion star.
Waves of X-rays formed “light echoes” that reflected off the swirling gas near the black hole and revealed changes in the environment’s size and shape.
“NICER has allowed us to measure light echoes closer to a stellar-mass black hole than ever before,” said Erin Kara, an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland, College Park and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who presented the findings at the 233rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.
“Previously, these light echoes off the inner accretion disk were only seen in supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of solar masses and undergo changes slowly.
Stellar black holes like J1820 have much lower masses and evolve much faster, so we can see changes play out on human time scales.”
A paper describing the findings, led by Kara, appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of Nature and is available online.
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