Outburst from Enormous Black Hole 11-Billion Years Ago Swept Past Earth in 2011 --"Brighter than All the Stars in Milky Way"
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January 11, 2013

Outburst from Enormous Black Hole 11-Billion Years Ago Swept Past Earth in 2011 --"Brighter than All the Stars in Milky Way"

 

 

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In early November, 2011, a months-long blast of energy launched by an enormous black hole almost 11 billion years ago swept past Earth. At the height of the outburst, the galaxy was more than 10,000 times brighter than the combined luminosity of all of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Using a combination of data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), the world's largest radio telescope, astronomers have zeroed in on the source of this ancient outburst: a galaxy known as 4C +71.07. Located in the constellation Ursa Major, 4C +71.07 is so far away that its light takes 10.6 billion years to reach Earth. Astronomers are seeing this galaxy as it existed when the universe was less than one-fourth of its present age.

Theorists expect gamma-ray outbursts occur only in close proximity to a galaxy's central black hole, the powerhouse ultimately responsible for the activity. A few rare observations suggested this is not the case.The 2011 flares from now give astronomers the clearest and most distant evidence that the theory still needs some work.The gamma-ray emission originated about 70 light-years away from the galaxy's central black hole.

The galaxy was discovered as a source of strong radio emission in the 1960s. NASA's Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, which operated in the 1990s, detected high-energy flares, but the galaxy was quiet during Fermi's first two and a half years in orbit. "This renewed activity came after a long slumber, and that's important because it allows us to explicitly link the gamma-ray flares to the rising emission observed by radio telescopes," said David Thompson, a Fermi deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

At the galaxy's core lies a supersized black hole weighing 2.6 billion times the sun's mass. Some of the matter falling toward the black hole becomes accelerated outward at almost the speed of light, creating dual particle jets blasting in opposite directions. One jet happens to point almost directly toward Earth. This characteristic makes 4C +71.07 a blazar, a classification that includes some of the brightest gamma-ray sources in the sky.

Boston University astronomers Alan Marscher and Svetlana Jorstad routinely monitor 4C +71.07 along with dozens of other blazars using several facilities, including the VLBA. The instrument's 10 radio telescopes span North America, from Hawaii to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and possess the resolving power of a single radio dish more than 5,300 miles across when their signals are combined. As a result, The VLBA resolves detail about a million times smaller than Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) and 1,000 times smaller than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

In autumn 2011, the VLBA images revealed a bright knot that appeared to move outward at a speed 20 times faster than light. "Although this apparent speed was an illusion caused by actual motion almost directly toward us at 99.87 percent the speed of light, this knot was the key to determining the location where the gamma-rays were produced in the black hole's jet," said Marscher.

The knot passed through a bright stationary feature of the jet, which the astronomers refer to as its radio "core," on April 9, 2011. This occurred within days of Fermi's detection of renewed gamma-ray flaring in the blazar. Marscher and Jorstad noted that the blazar brightened at visible wavelengths in step with the higher-energy emission.

During the most intense period of flaring, from October 2011 to January 2012, the scientists found the polarization direction of the blazar's visible light rotated in the same manner as radio emissions from the knot. They concluded the knot was responsible for the visible and the gamma-ray light, which varied in sync. This association allowed the researchers to pinpoint the location of the gamma-ray outburst to about 70 light-years from the black hole.

The astronomers think that the gamma rays were produced when electrons moving near the speed of light within the jet collided with visible and infrared light originating outside of the jet. Such a collision can kick the light up to much higher energies, a process known as inverse-Compton scattering. The source of the lower-energy light is unclear at the moment. The researchers speculate the source may be an outer, slow-moving sheath that surrounds the jet. Nicholas MacDonald, a graduate student at Boston University, is investigating how the gamma-ray brightness should change in this scenario to compare with observations.

"The VLBA is the only instrument that can bring us images from so near the edge of a young supermassive black hole, and Fermi's LAT is the only instrument that can see the highest-energy light from the galaxy's jet," said Jorstad.

Image at the top of the page is a NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory discovery of an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth. Using Chandra, astronomers found a new ultraluminous X-ray source, or ULX. These objects give off more X-rays than most normal binary systems in which a companion star is in orbit around a neutron star or black hole.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Comments

A sheath of low energy impinged upon an existing near c source?
70 l y away from the central nucleus is the source of a knot of light energy that passed the MW in 2011? Going where how fast?

let me not trust a pinpoint of 70 LY from a source 10 billion years ago...That after we almost believed that light speed can be surpassed according to groups of physicists spending billions of UE money to play god (particle :)))...

Or maybe a second orbiting black hole absorbing a star. I think it is when matter is absorbed by the black hole that these outbursts of kinetic energy are released. A black hole is certainly not a hole at all!

"Theorists expect gamma-ray outbursts occur only in close proximity to a galaxy's central black hole, the powerhouse ultimately responsible for the activity. A few rare observations suggested this is not the case".

AD: Still, this observation does not - as usual - question the theories - they just keep adding new theory epicycles to the contradicted theory.

"Scientific knowledge is closely tied to empirical findings, and always remains subject to falsification if new experimental observation incompatible with it is found. That is, no theory can ever be considered completely certain, since new evidence falsifying it might be discovered. If such evidence is found, a new theory may be proposed, or (more commonly) it is found that minor modifications to the previous theory are sufficient to explain the new evidence. The strength of a theory is related to how long it has persisted without falsification of its core principles". - From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

Astronomical Science budgets worldwide would be cut in angry protest by the NON astronomical political representation community, should a largish asteroid ever hit earth, especially a city . The astronomical science lobby has spent trillions of dollars probing the solar system, running space stations, building large telescopes on earth and in space, and other branches of science spendups on Hadron Colliders and the list is endless. Yet where is the tried and proved system in place to prevent an asteroid reaching earth. This should be an urgent program in astronomical science thinking. To detect quickly (even better than we do now) and have a failsafe system to deflect or evaporate dangerous to us, asteroids. The technology has existed for quite some time now and think it through how many dollars will ever be voted to Astroscience budgets after having spent many trillions doing everything else but putting in place such an asteroid killing system. The non astronomical world would consider our science a joke to do all but protect our planet. Never mind the Apophis possibility, earth is a sitting duck to any known or unexpected chunk of rock. This requires the ultimate in international cooperation of space capable nations, being aware how long such a program would take to perfect, now's a good starting time. Now go and tell me earth is not a sitting duck and such a system was secretly put in place a decade ago.

Would a release by a LT (light terminus) starbody of mass traveling across space not leave a signature? Where is it?

If this LT body was being assimilated by the larger LT, and this assimilation of electromagnetic field required the smaller LT to be divested of its pressure gas (electromagnetic field squeezing the smaller LT) this could be the mechanism by which these masses of gas appear in the system. The slow, they 'appear 'as a gas cloud.
So, since science can tell us the direction of the past, where is it now in the present?


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