In a recent study, astronomers observed great large-scale dark and light rays emanating from the bright center of the IC 5063 galaxy using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. According to the researchers, an inner tubular ring or « torus » of dusty material that surrounds the active galaxy’s central black hole casts its shadow into space. The study also found that the exchange of light and shadow can occur when the light emitted by the supermassive black hole hits the torus.
The light flows through gaps in the torus and creates brilliant cone-shaped rays. The researchers said the denser spots in the torus block some of the light that casts long, dark shadows across the galaxy.
An official NASA publication quoted Dr. . Peter Maksym, an astronomer at the Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithson, said, « I’m most excited about the shadow of the torus idea because it’s a really cool effect that we haven’t seen in pictures before – it’s been adopted. «
« Scientifically, it shows us something that is difficult – usually impossible – to see directly. We know this phenomenon should occur, but in this case we can see the effects across the galaxy. Knowing more about the geometry of the torus has implications for anyone trying to understand the behavior of supermassive black holes and their surroundings. As a galaxy evolves, it is shaped by its central black hole, « added Maksym.
The researchers further claimed that studying the torus is important as it directs material towards the black hole. If the ‘shadow’ interpretation is correct, the dark rays provide indirect evidence that the disc in IC 5063 could be very thin, which explains why light is leaking around the structure, the researchers said in the press release.
When similar black holes were observed by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, X-rays were discovered emerging from holes in the torus, making the structure look like Swiss cheese, Maksym said. The holes could be caused by the disc being pulled in and warping by internal forces, he added. It’s possible that the distortion is big enough to let some of the light shine through, and as the torus rotates, rays of light could sweep through the nebula across the galaxy like lighthouse rays, he said.
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World News – CA – NASA’s Hubble Telescope captures the shadow rays of the black hole
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