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Last observed in 2015, the black hole is spewing out ‘wobbly’ plasma jets that move so fast they change orientation within minutes.

Some 8,000 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation (“The Swan”), a small black hole weighing just nine times the mass of Earth’s sun is gobbling up a sun-like star. The black hole and its stellar victim are locked together in what astronomers call a binary system and orbit each other once every 6.5 days – with spectacular effects, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is reporting.

While the black hole may be relatively tiny as far as these celestial objects go – for instance, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, known as Sagittarius A*, is 4 million times more massive than the sun, per a previous report from The Inquisitr – it does pack a pretty mean punch. Dubbed V404 Cygni, the black hole is continuously siphoning material from its stellar companion, slowly consuming the unfortunate star.

As it often happens in this type of binary system in which a star has the misfortune of sharing its lodgings with a black hole, V404 Cygni is slowly eating away at its neighbor, gradually draining the star of gas and dust. Since the stellar gas and debris is too vast to be devoured all at once, the material swirls around the black hole in a so-called accretion disk – on which V404 Cygni continuously feasts, shooting out X-rays and plumes of hot gas, or plasma, in the process.

This is the common fate that befalls most stars wandering too close to a black hole after getting sucked in by its strong gravity. And, while it’s not unusual for a black hole to spew out an intense amount of radiation and relativistic jets as it munches on a star, as previously covered by The Inquisitr, the emissions coming from V404 Cygni are truly special.

This particular black hole made headlines in 2015, when astronomers observed a massive outburst coming from V404 Cygni. Picked up by NASA’s Swift satellite, the outburst lasted for two weeks and was the first signal of activity detected from the slumbering object in nearly three decades, as reported by NASA at the time.

The event prompted a group of scientists to investigate the black hole and study its emissions. Led by James Miller-Jones, a researcher with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), the team has just published a study in the journal Nature detailing the peculiar nature of the plasma jets being released by V404 Cygni.

According to their findings, the jets of hot gas spewing out of the black hole are unlike anything science has ever encountered before. While astronomers have had the chance to study relativistic jets emitted by black holes in the past – beams of ionized particles traveling close to the speed of light – the streams of particles ejected by V404 Cygni are “wildly wobbling,” notes Space.

In fact, the plasma jets coming from the black hole are moving so fast that they rapidly change orientation in a matter of minutes, tugging at the space around them in the process. Based on their observations, the scientists believe that “this unusually rapid motion could be happening because the black hole’s strong gravity is warping space around it,” states the media outlet.

After monitoring V404 Cygni with the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a massive network of 10 radio telescopes set up all around the world, the team discovered that the plasma jets coming from the black hole “were changing so fast that, in a four-hour image, we saw just a blur,” explained study co-author Alexandra Tetarenko, an East Asian Observatory fellow in Hawaii.

“We’ve never seen this effect happening on such short time scales,” Miller-Jones said in a statement released today by the NRAO.

To get a better view of the black hole, his team snapped a total of 103 images of V404 Cygni, each with an exposure of about 70 seconds, and pieced them together into an animation, thereby obtaining a short movie of the active black hole. The visualization revealed that the object was wobbling like a spinning top, pulling space-time around with it and redirecting its relativistic jets in the process, reports Gizmodo.

“We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system — it was completely unexpected,” said study co-author Greg Sivakoff, an astronomer at the University of Alberta in Canada.

“Finding this astronomical first has deepened our understanding of how black holes and galaxy formation can work. It tells us a little more about that big question: ‘How did we get here?’”

The results are consistent with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts that massive objects can warp space-time.

“When such a massive object is spinning, its gravitational influence pulls space and time around with it, an effect called frame-dragging,” detailed the NRAO, which runs the VLBA radio telescope network for the National Science Foundation.

As the black hole feeds on its neighboring star, the innermost portion of its accretion disk – which measures 6.2 million miles across in its entirety – is “puffed up” by the intense radiation generated while the ravenous object gorges on its stellar companion. This, coupled with the fact that the black hole’s spin axis is misaligned with the plane of the star, “causes the frame-dragging effect to warp the inner part of the disk, then pull the warped portion around with it,” explained NRAO officials.

Since the jets originate from either the inner disk or the black hole, this changes the jet orientation, producing the wobbling observed with the VLBA.”

Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 107
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 108

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 109
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 110

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 111

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 112

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 113

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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