The confirmation of the existence of black holes is one of the most basic results in astrophysics. There is a wide range of masses of black holes, from those with stellar mass, which are the result of the catastrophic final phase of very massive stars, to the supermassive black holes at the centres of most galaxies. The mass of a black hole is up to now the only parameter which scientists are able to measure. In this work, we present an original method for measuring the masses of black holes, from those of stellar mass to the supermassive variety, based on a simple measurement of the temperature of the gas that is is produced in the surroundings of a black hole when it is active, i.e. when it is “smallowing” the matter which falls into its gravitational field. This new method is based on a theory first proposed in 1973 by the astronomers N. Shakura y R. Sunyaev, applied to binary stars which emit X-rays, each of which contain a compact object, usually a black hole, and a companion star. The new method opens the possibility to measure black hole of stellar mass, and also for intermediate mass and supermassive black holes. At the same time, thanks to its theoretical basis, the method offers also the possibility of determining the rotation, the spin, of a black hole. A result of this work, perhaps counterintuitive, is that the more massive the black hole, the more inactive it becomes and the cooler is the medium which surrounds it. The opposite occurs when they have less mass, in which case they are able to heat the material around them to millions of degrees, although only when they are active.
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Disclaimer footnote: Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US National Science Foundation. Vyacheslav (Slava) Lukin is a Program Director in the National Science Foundation (NFS) Division of Physics with responsibility for the program in Plasma Physics. In his own research, he focuses on understanding “magnetic reconnection”, a compex physical phenomenon which causes the aurora borealis, solar flares, coronal mass ejections and gamma ray bursts. This is a process whichAdvertised on
A team of astronomers has discovered that galaxies with an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) –hosting continuously growing black holes that emit large amounts of energy and radiation– may undergo a period of rapid star birth before shutting down completely. The research, conducted by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), the University of Southampton and the Institute of Space Sciences, ICE (IEEC-CSIC), was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The Universe is filled with trillions of galaxies, each one comprising billions of starsAdvertised on
A recent study led by researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has resolved an old debate about the progenitor stars of the brightest planetary nebulae. The first author of this article, which has just been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, is Rebeca Galera Rosillo, a doctoral student at the IAC who passed away in 2020 when she was finishing this work for her doctoral thesis. The first and most important datum needed to grasp the nature of the universe is to know its size, to measure the distance to the galaxies. Just as in the Renaissance people beganAdvertised on