Astronomers have a brand new approach to measure the mass of supermassive black holes


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Even probably the most supermassive of the supermassive black holes aren’t very giant, making it extraordinarily tough to measure their sizes. However, astronomers have just lately developed a brand new method that may estimate the mass of a black hole primarily based on the motion of scorching fuel round them—even when the black hole itself it smaller than a single pixel.

Supermassive black holes are surrounded by tons of superheated plasma. That plasma swirls across the again gap, forming a torus and an accretion disk that regularly feeds materials into the black hole. Because of the acute gravity, that fuel strikes extremely rapidly and shines fiercely. It’s that gentle that we determine as a quasar, which may be seen from throughout the universe.

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While the quasars are comparatively simple to identify, it is far more difficult to quantify the properties of the central black hole. Now Felix Bosco, in shut collaboration with Jörg-Uwe Pott, each from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, and former MPIA researchers Jonathan Stern (now Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Joseph Hennawi (now UC Santa Barbara; U.S. and Leiden University, the Netherlands), has succeeded for the primary time in demonstrating the feasibility of straight figuring out the mass of a quasar utilizing a method known as spectroastrometry.

Spectroastrometry depends on observing the world across the black hole. As the fuel swirls round it, a few of it is going to be transferring in our path and a few if it is going to be transferring away. The portion of the fuel transferring in direction of us can be blue-shifted, and the portion transferring away will shift extra purple. Even if the central black hole and accretion disk are too small to resolve, the method can nonetheless be utilized to areas additional away, and thru modeling the researchers can estimate a mass.

“By separating spectral and spatial information in the collected light, as well as by statistically modeling the measured data, we can derive distances of much less than one image pixel from the center of the accretion disk,” defined Bosco.

The workforce efficiently utilized this method to J2123-0050, a quasar energetic when the universe was simply 2.9 billion years outdated. They discovered that the central black hole weighed 1.8 billion solar lots. Taking this method to the subsequent degree and focusing on the earliest quasars, nevertheless, would require some new telescopes.

Joe Hennawi provides, “With the significantly increased sensitivity of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT, with a primary mirror diameter of 39 meters) currently under construction, we will soon be able to determine quasar masses at the highest redshifts.” Jörg-Uwe Pott, who additionally leads the Heidelberg contributions to ELT’s first near-infrared digicam, MICADO, provides, “The feasibility study now published helps us to define and prepare our planned ELT research programs.”

Microlensing measurement of a quasar’s accretion disk

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Universe Today

Astronomers have a brand new approach to measure the mass of supermassive black holes (2021, October 7)
retrieved 7 October 2021

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