Astronomers that use the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found an unexpected thin disc of a specific material that is circling a supermassive black hole in the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147. It is placed 130 million light-years away.
The presence of this black hole disc in a low-lighted active galaxy has surprised many astronomers. Black holes in particular types of galaxies, like NGC 3147 are thought to be starving because there is not sufficient gravitationally captured material that can feed them regularly. So we are talking about a thin disc that’s circling a black hole that’s starving, which is quite similar to the larger disks that are found in other galaxies. How is this now surprising?
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us.
The disc from this material represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to test Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity. The disc is so embedded in the gravitational field of the black hole that the light that comes from the gas disc is actually altered. According to astronomers, this is how astronomers can find out more about the dynamic processes that are close to a black hole. They said that they have never seen the effects of general and special relativity when it comes to the visible light. Everything is so much clearer now.
Hubble measured the disc. It roams around the black hole at more than 10% of the speed of light. At this kind of velocity, the gas seems to be brighter, and it is even more when it travels towards Earth. It dims when it speeds away from our planet to the next one. This is called relativistic beaming. The data found by Hubble also shows that the gas exists so deep in a gravitational field, that the light is actually struggling to escape. This is the reason why the light appears to be stretched to redder wavelengths.