Astronomers Find Periodically Flaring Black Hole in Distant Galaxy | Astronomy

A supermassive black hole siphons gas off of an orbiting giant star. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Chris Smith, USRA & GESTAR.

An energetic galactic nucleus within the heart of ESO 253-G003, an energetic galaxy over 570 million light-years away within the southern constellation of Pictor, erupts roughly each 114 days, based on a paper to be revealed within the Astrophysical Journal.

A supermassive black gap siphons fuel off of an orbiting big star. Picture credit score: NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Middle / Chris Smith, USRA & GESTAR.

ASASSN-14ko was first detected on November 14, 2014, by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN).

On the time, astronomers thought the occasion in ESO 253-G003 was probably a supernova, a one-time occasion that destroys a star.

“ASASSN-14ko is at the moment our greatest instance of periodic variability in an energetic galaxy, regardless of a long time of different claims, as a result of the timing of its flares may be very constant over the six years of information,” stated Dr. Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Middle who was not concerned within the examine.

“This result’s an actual tour de power of multiwavelength observational astronomy.”

“We expect a supermassive black gap on the galaxy’s heart creates the bursts because it partially consumes an orbiting big star,” stated lead writer Anna Payne, an astronomer on the College of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Trying on the ESO 253-Three mild curve, or the graph of its brightness over time, Payne and colleagues seen a sequence of 17 flares, all separated by about 114 days. Every flare reaches its peak brightness in about 5 days, then steadily dims.

The astronomers predicted that the galaxy would flare once more on Might 17, 2020, so that they coordinated joint observations with ground- and space-based services, together with multiwavelength measurements with NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. ASASSN-14ko erupted proper on schedule.

They’ve since predicted and noticed subsequent flares on September 7 and December 20, 2020.

In addition they used information from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite tv for pc (TESS) to create a exact timeline of a flare that started on November 7, 2018, monitoring its emergence, rise to peak brightness, and decline in nice element.

Utilizing measurements from ASAS-SN, TESS, Swift and different observatories, together with NASA’s NuSTAR and ESA’s XMM-Newton observatories, the researchers got here up with three potential explanations for the repeating flares.

One state of affairs concerned interactions between the disks of two orbiting supermassive black holes on the heart of ESO 253-G003.

Latest measurements counsel the galaxy does certainly host two such objects, however they don’t orbit carefully sufficient to account for the frequency of the flares.

“There may be proof {that a} second supermassive black gap exists in that galaxy,” stated co-author Dr. Chris Kochanek, an astronomer at Ohio State College.

“The galaxy that hosts this object is one thing of a ‘trainwreck’ consisting of two galaxies within the means of merging into one.”

The second state of affairs the scientists thought of was a star passing on an inclined orbit by a black gap’s disk. In that case, they might anticipate to see asymmetrically formed flares induced when the star disturbs the disk twice, on both facet of the black gap. However the flares from this galaxy all have the identical form.

The third state of affairs, and the one the staff thinks probably, is a partial tidal disruption occasion.

On this case, one of many galaxy’s supermassive black holes, one with about 78 million instances the Solar’s mass, partially disrupts an orbiting big star.

The star’s orbit isn’t round, and every time it passes closest to the black gap, it bulges outward, shedding mass however not fully breaking up.

Each encounter strips away an quantity of fuel equal to about thrice the mass of Jupiter.

“We don’t know the way lengthy the flares will persist,” the authors stated.

“The star can’t lose mass perpetually, and whereas we will estimate the quantity of mass it loses throughout every orbit, they don’t know the way a lot it had earlier than the disruptions started.”


Anna V. Payne et al. 2020. ASASSN-14ko is a Periodic Nuclear Transient in ESO 253-G003. ApJ, in press; arXiv: 2009.03321


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here