For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Detect Visible Light From Black Holes

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Astronomers have detected, for the first time ever, visible light from Black Holes in the Constellation of Cygnus.

Researchers have found out that black holes are observable through a simple optical telescope when material from surrounding space is swallowed by these cosmic devourers and violent bursts of light are released.

Image taken from a video by scientists studying the black hole V404 Cygni located about 7,800 light-years from Earth shows visible light that could be viewable by stargazers using a small optical telescope. Credit: Michael Richmond/Rochester Institute Of Technology

Image taken from a video by scientists studying the black hole V404 Cygni.

The detection of Black Holes – Researchers believe there is a huge one in the center of every single galaxy – is a true challenge for science. No one has ever seen one, because not even light escapes from its large gravitational force, so in order to locate them astronomers must look at the high-energy radiation they emit, employing satellites or X-ray telescopes. However, an international team of researchers wrote, in the Journal Nature that these mysterious cosmic monsters can be seen with visible light during explosions. Not Black Holes directly, but an effect that gives away their presence, the flashing light emerging from the gasses that surround them. Interestingly, to observe this, you only need a telescope of about 20 centimeters in diameter.

Image taken from a video by scientists studying the black hole V404 Cygni located about 7,800 light-years from Earth shows visible light that could be viewable by stargazers using a small optical telescope. Credit: Michael Richmond/Rochester Institute Of Technology

However, an international team of researchers wrote, in the Journal Nature that these mysterious cosmic monsters can be seen with visible light during explosions. Not Black Holes directly, but an effect that gives away their presence, the flashing light emerging from the gases that surround them. Interestingly, to observe this, you only need a telescope of about 20 centimeters in diameter.

Japanese Researchers were able to detect light waves originating from V404 Cyngi – an active black hole in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan – after it had woken from a 26-year-long slumber in June of 2015.

“We now know that we can make observations based on optical rays – visible light, in other words – and that black holes can be observed without high-spec x-ray or gamma-ray telescopes,” Kimura said.

Researchers state that the black hole, one of the closest discovered to Earth so far, has a partner star which is believed to be somewhat smaller than our Sun. The two celestial objects circle each other every six-and-a-half days at a distance of around 8,000 light years from Earth.

Black holes are usually surrounded by an accretion disk, where gas from the companion star falls slowly but surely into the black hole in a spiral. These activities are usually observed through X-rays which are generated in the inner parts of the disc where temperatures reach 10 million degrees Kelvin or even more, but this time, researchers were able to observe V404 Cygni with visible light.

Based on the analysis of data from optical observation and X-ray’s, astronomers from Kyoto and colleagues at the Japanese space agency JAXA, the National Laboratory of RIKEN and the University of Hiroshima showed that light is caused by X-rays leaving the innermost region of the accretion disk around the black hole. These X-rays radiate and heat the outer region of the disk, causing them to emit optical beams and thus making it visible to the human eye.

These observations have been the result of international collaboration between organizations from countries in different time zones since the radiation of black holes are unpredictable and only last a few weeks or less.

‘Stars can only be observed after dark, and there are only so many hours each night, but by making observations from different locations around the globe we’re able to take more comprehensive data,’ says co-author Daisuke Nogami.

‘We’re very pleased that our international observation network was able to come together to document this rare event.’

Researchers were also able to collect data from small optical telescopes, of only 20 cm in diameter, demonstrating that, as noted by Poshak Gandhi, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Britain’s University of Southampton, in an article accompanying the research, „size it is not always the most important factor“.

“Astronomers often refer to black holes as eating stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal,” said Eric Schlegel who led the study at the University of Texas in San Antonio. “It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events.”

The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society in Florida.
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Astronomy

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Mysterious X-Ray

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V404 Cygni

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