NASA’s Chandra Discovers a Black Hole With Low Productivity

Scientists have discovered that an incredibly bright supermassive black hole is not performing as predicted. Not as significant as many of its counterparts in other galaxies, this big black hole is only responsible for strong jets and high radiation levels.

The nearest quasar to Earth, located within a galaxy cluster, was examined in a recent study conducted with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Extreme and uncommon supermassive black holes known as quasars are ferociously drawing matter inward, resulting in intense radiation and occasionally strong jets. This recently discovered quasar, designated H1821+643, is located approximately 3.4 billion light-years away from Earth and has a black hole that is almost four billion times the mass of the sun.

Compared to those in quasars, the majority of expanding supermassive black holes draw material in more slowly. By seeing black holes at the centers of galaxy clusters, astronomers have been able to study the effects of these more common black holes. Such black holes regularly erupt to keep the massive amounts of superheated gas in which they are buried from cooling down, so limiting the number of stars that form in their host galaxies and the quantity of fuel that is directed toward the black hole.

The amount to which quasars in galaxy clusters affect their environment is a considerably less understood topic.

Leading the new study was Helen Russell of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. “We have found that the quasar in our study appears to have relinquished much of the control imposed by more slowly growing black holes,” Russell stated. “The black hole’s appetite is not matched by its influence.”

The researchers studied the heated gas enveloping H1821+643 and its host galaxy using Chandra in order to come to this result. Studying the weaker X-rays from the heated plasma was challenging, though, due to the quasar’s brilliant X-rays.

Co-author Paul Nulsen of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian stated, “We had to carefully remove the X-ray glare to reveal what the black hole’s influence is,” “We could then see that it’s actually having little effect on its surroundings.”

The group used Chandra to discover that, compared to areas farther away, the gas density and temperature near the black hole in the galaxy’s center are significantly higher and lower, respectively. In order to keep the hot gas from cooling down and moving toward the cluster’s center, scientists expect it to operate in this way in the absence of little to no energy input, which would normally come from black hole outbursts.

According to co-author Lucy Clews of the Open University in the UK, “the giant black hole in the center of galaxy clusters is generating a lot less heat than most of the others.” “This allows the hot gas to rapidly cool down and form new stars, and also act as a fuel source for the black hole.”

The scientists discovered that heated gas is cooling to the point where it is invisible in X-rays, which is equivalent to roughly 3,000 times the mass of the sun annually. The 40 solar masses that the black hole consumes annually as well as the 120 solar masses of new stars that are seen to develop in the host galaxy each year can both be easily supplied by this rapid cooling.

The notion that the hot gas in the cluster is immediately cooling down due to radiation from the quasar was also investigated by the study. This occurs when hot gas electrons and photons from the quasar collide, causing the photons to gain energy and the electrons to lose energy and cool down. According to the team’s analysis, this kind of cooling is most likely taking place in the cluster that houses H1821+643, but it is far too weak to account for the significant gas cooling seen.

Co-author Thomas Braben of the University of Nottingham remarked, “While this black hole may be underachieving by not pumping heat into its environment, the current state of affairs will likely not last forever,” “Eventually the rapid fuel intake by the black hole should increase the power of its jets and strongly heat the gas. The growth of the black hole and its galaxy should then drastically slow down.”

These findings are described in an article that is accessible on the arXiv preprint server and has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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