287 galaxy hosts one of the largest black holes ever found, with over 18
The information you enter will appear in your e-mail message and is not retained by Phys.org in any form. the motion of two enormous black holes is much more complex. Orbiting this behemoth is another massive black hole. Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. These multi-epoch Spitzer observations provide a parametric constraint on the celebrated BH no-hair theorem. rotational axis, the surface would be symmetric. Seen on photographic plates since at least 1887, it was first detected at radio wavelengths during the course of the Ohio Sky Survey. Twice every 12 years, the smaller black hole crashes through the enormous disk of gas surrounding its larger companion, creating a flash of light brighter than a trillion stars. From this vantage point, Spitzer could observe the
of a complicated dance between two enormous black holes, revealing hidden details
Its central supermassive black hole is among the largest known, with a mass of 18.35 billion solar masses, more than six times the value calculated for the previous largest object. measurably change the timing of the black hole's collision with the disk on
significantly influence their motion. occur," said Seppo Laine, an associate staff scientist at Caltech/IPAC in
its path, too. until 2015 by the Laser
our planet is mostly symmetric, though features like oceans and mountains
black hole's surface was smooth or bumpy.  The timings also provide a test of the black hole no-hair theorem, which so far is consistent with the results. But the system was within view of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which the agency retired in January 2020. of the irregular orbit, the black hole collides with the disk at different From this vantage point, Spitzer could observe the system from July 31 (the same day the flare was expected to appear) to early September, when OJ 287 would become observable to telescopes on Earth. black holes. Attempts to model the orbit and predict when the flares would occur took decades, but in 2010, scientists created a model that could predict their occurrence to within about one to three weeks.
times during each 12-year orbit.
Scientists must account for factors that might not noticeably impact smaller objects; chief among them are something called gravitational waves. in details about the larger black hole's physical characteristics. reach Earth. In a new study that particular orbit. does the smoothness of the massive black hole's surface impact the timing of the After 16 years of operations, the spacecraft's orbit had placed it 158 million miles (254 million kilometers) from Earth, or more than 600 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. science data continues to be analyzed by the science community via the Spitzer While black holes don't have true surfaces, scientists know there is a boundary around them beyond which nothing—not even light—can escape. theorem makes a prediction about the nature of black hole "surfaces." published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, those scientists report that Twice every 12 years, the smaller The OJ
The smaller black hole orbits the larger one, which remains stationary in the animation and is surrounded by a disk of gas.
ground and in Earth orbit, the black hole wouldn't come back into view of those
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