Black Hole’s Heartbeat is Still Going Strong

A decade ago, scientists confirmed for the first time a black hole’s heartbeat. Recent observations show that the black hole’s heart is still beating. 

An X-ray satellite monitoring found the repeated beat after its signal had been blocked by the Sun for several years. Astronomers explained that such a phenomenon is the most long-lived heartbeat ever detected in a black hole. Here is what you should know. 

A Black Hole’s Heartbeat is Stronger Than Previously Believed

The black hole’s heartbeat was first discovered in 2017 at the core of the galaxy dubbed RE J1034+396, almost 600 million light-years from our planet. The signal from this cosmic giant repeated every hour, and astronomers succeeded in capturing several pictures using X-ray satellites. Then, the heartbeat’s signal was blocked by our Sun for several years, and scientists’ work was impossible.

Back in 2018, the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray satellite was finally able to re-examine the black hole. To scientists’ surprise, the same repeated heartbeat could still be noticed. 

The matter that falls on to a supermassive black hole as it nurtures from the accretion disk of material encompassing it spreads a large amount of power from a somehow tiny area of Universe. However, this is rarely perceived as a particular repeatable model like a heartbeat. The period between beats can tells us about the dimension and structure of the matter near the black hole’s event horizon. 

Professor Chris Done from the Durham University’s Center for Extragalactic Astronomy explained: “The main idea for how this heartbeat is formed is that the inner parts of the accretion disk are expanding and contracting.”

Such signals emerging from a supermassive black hole can be powerful and persistent. It can help scientists further to examine the origin and nature of the heartbeat signal. The next step in the study is to do a comprehensive observation of the intriguing signal and compare it with how the stellar-mass black holes in the Milky Way galaxy act. 

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