HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

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bystander
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HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

Post by bystander » Mon May 13, 2019 4:49 pm

Image HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

Despite the emptiness of outer space, cosmic collisions between galaxies are fairly common. One of the best examples is Messier 51, which consists of a large spiral galaxy, M51a, known more commonly as the Whirlpool, and a smaller companion galaxy, M51b, with a bridge of stars connecting them. The two galaxies collided in the dim, distant past, and M51b is inexorably spiralling into the Whirlpool. Both the Whirlpool and M51b have central supermassive black holes and, since each is viewed face on from earth, the system provides an outstanding opportunity to study how galaxy collisions help feed supermassive black holes. Scientists think that such titanic collisions should drive material into the maws of the central supermassive black holes, increasing their size and making them shine brightly in X-rays. Oddly enough, observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories have shown that the supermassive black holes in the M51 galaxies are unexpectedly faint. However, material near the black holes might block some of the X-ray emission, so that the observed emission might severely underestimate the true activity. The NuSTAR X-ray observatory provides the unique capability to make images at very high X-ray energies, and these high energy ("hard") X-rays can penetrate through huge amounts of absorbing material and give us an unobscured view of the supermassive black holes in M51. The image above shows the NuSTAR image of M51 in green, superimposed on an optical image. The NuSTAR observations show that both central black holes are hard X-ray sources, but confirm that the supermassive black holes in M51 are actually intrinsically faint, and apparently dainty eaters. This is a puzzle to astronomers, and perhaps suggests that supermassive black holes in interacting galaxies only feed sporadically, with X-ray active periods interspersed with long periods of inactivity. Interestingly, NuSTAR also shows that one of the brightest X-ray sources in the Whirlpool, the green dot near the outer spiral arm of the galaxy on the left of the image, is a neutron star. This X-ray source is so bright that it is classified as a rare ultra-luminous X-ray source, or ULX. Its not clear why this neutron star, about a million times less massive than the supermassive black holes, is such a bright hard X-ray source. Astronomers think that perhaps the X-ray emission is produced somehow by the neutron star's superstrong magnetic field, though the details are not yet fully understood.

NuSTAR: In Colliding Galaxies, a Pipsqueak Shines Bright
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M51b & M51a = Bob & Alice?

Post by neufer » Mon May 13, 2019 4:53 pm

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Art Neuendorffer

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Re: HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

Post by Ann » Tue May 14, 2019 12:18 am

HEAPOW wrote:

cientists think that such titanic collisions should drive material into the maws of the central supermassive black holes, increasing their size and making them shine brightly in X-rays. Oddly enough, observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories have shown that the supermassive black holes in the M51 galaxies are unexpectedly faint.
I note that M51 appears to have a relatively small yellow bulge. Are we sure that the central black hole of M51 is all that massive? Perhaps, if the central black hole isn't so very massive, it is less likely to act up and have outbursts.

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Re: HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

Post by neufer » Tue May 14, 2019 2:37 am

Ann wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 12:18 am
HEAPOW wrote:
scientists think that such titanic collisions should drive material into the maws of the central supermassive black holes, increasing their size and making them shine brightly in X-rays. Oddly enough, observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories have shown that the supermassive black holes in the M51 galaxies are unexpectedly faint.
I note that M51 appears to have a relatively small yellow bulge. Are we sure that the central black hole of M51 is all that massive? Perhaps, if the central black hole isn't so very massive, it is less likely to act up and have outbursts.
  • The central black hole of M51 doesn't seem to be aiming its jets towards us:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_5195 wrote: :arrow: A black hole, surrounded by a ring of dust, is thought to exist at the heart of the M51a spiral. The dust ring stands almost perpendicular to the relatively flat spiral nebula. A secondary ring crosses the primary ring on a different axis, a phenomenon that is contrary to expectations.

A pair of ionization cones extend from the axis of the main dust ring.

.......................................................

<<In January 2016, BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb said, "Astronomers have spotted two huge waves of gas being 'burped' by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy. The swathes of hot gas, detected in X-ray images from NASA's Chandra space telescope, appear to be sweeping cooler hydrogen gas ahead of them. This vast, rippling belch is taking place in NGC 5195 - a small, neglected sibling of the 'Whirlpool Galaxy', 26 million light years away. That makes it one of the closest black holes blasting gas in this way". He added, "The findings'... are a dramatic example of 'feedback' between a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy". Webb's report cited Marie Machacek, co-author of the study from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA), as saying, "We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large […] But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form. This shows that black holes can create, not just destroy.">>
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Re: HEAPOW: Falling into the Whirlpool (2019 May 13)

Post by Ann » Tue May 14, 2019 4:44 am

neufer wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 2:37 am
Ann wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 12:18 am
HEAPOW wrote:
scientists think that such titanic collisions should drive material into the maws of the central supermassive black holes, increasing their size and making them shine brightly in X-rays. Oddly enough, observations with the Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories have shown that the supermassive black holes in the M51 galaxies are unexpectedly faint.
I note that M51 appears to have a relatively small yellow bulge. Are we sure that the central black hole of M51 is all that massive? Perhaps, if the central black hole isn't so very massive, it is less likely to act up and have outbursts.
  • The central black hole of M51 doesn't seem to be aiming its jets towards us:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_5195 wrote: :arrow: A black hole, surrounded by a ring of dust, is thought to exist at the heart of the M51a spiral. The dust ring stands almost perpendicular to the relatively flat spiral nebula. A secondary ring crosses the primary ring on a different axis, a phenomenon that is contrary to expectations.

A pair of ionization cones extend from the axis of the main dust ring.

.......................................................

<<In January 2016, BBC science reporter Jonathan Webb said, "Astronomers have spotted two huge waves of gas being 'burped' by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy. The swathes of hot gas, detected in X-ray images from NASA's Chandra space telescope, appear to be sweeping cooler hydrogen gas ahead of them. This vast, rippling belch is taking place in NGC 5195 - a small, neglected sibling of the 'Whirlpool Galaxy', 26 million light years away. That makes it one of the closest black holes blasting gas in this way". He added, "The findings'... are a dramatic example of 'feedback' between a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy". Webb's report cited Marie Machacek, co-author of the study from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA), as saying, "We think that feedback keeps galaxies from becoming too large […] But at the same time, it can be responsible for how some stars form. This shows that black holes can create, not just destroy.">>
Interesting, Art. So a supermassive black hole is thought to exist in M51, but a supermassive black hole with a bit of indigestion is known to exist in NGC 5195.

I'm not surprised. The yellow "body" of NGC 5195 appears more massive than the yellow bulge of M51, from a purely visual point of view.

Ann
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