It's a breakthrough discovery that could lead to tremendous amounts of knowledge being uncovered about black holes.
Scientists have just done something pretty amazing: using NASA’s Nuclear Spectropic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), they were able to listen to black holes sing. Yes, sing. And while it’s not exactly a melodic tune, this chorus of black holes could lead to huge breakthroughs in the field of physics, helping us better understand them and therefore uncover some of the most fundamental truths of the universe.
By songs, scientists are referring to radiation blasted out of a black hole as it eats up huge amounts of matter. The NuSTAR telescope enables astronomers to fill in the gaps in the high-energy X-ray background, resolving 35 percent of the background whereas before they could only resolve 2 percent of the background, according to a California Institute of Technology statement.
What exactly does this mean? Scientists can now better understand the growth patterns of supermassive black holes, which are found at the center of nearly every galaxy. This is key to understanding how black holes develop and the evolution of the galaxies around them. The supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy is currently dormant, but at what point it grew dramatically, and scientists want to understand how that happened.
“The results will ultimately help astronomers understand how the growth patterns of supermassive black holes change over time–a key factor in the development of black holes and the galaxies that host them,” the statement reads. “For instance, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is dormant now, but at some point in the past, it would have siphoned gas and bulked up in size.
“As black holes grow, their intense gravity pulls matter toward them. The matter heats up to extremely high temperatures and particles get boosted to close to the speed of light. Together, these processes make the black hole surroundings glow with X-rays. A supermassive black hole with an ample supply of fuel, or gas, will give off more high-energy X-rays.”