More than a decade has passed, the first confirmed heartbeat of a supermassive black hole is still going on. And with time, it has become stronger according to the British and Chinese astronomers.
In 2007, the Quasi-Periodic Oscillations (QPO) was first detected at the centre of a galaxy called RE J1034+396. This galaxy is 600 million light-years from the Earth. Till 2011, when Sun blocked the signals, the signals were observed every hour, also spotted in snapshots.
In 2018, the European Space Agency’s XMM Newton X-ray satellite detected the signals again. The scientists were surprised to observe the same heartbeat pattern repeatedly.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Durham University wrote in monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that recently, after so many years due to Sun blockage, they spotted the repeated beats after the signal.
The lead author, Chichuan Jin says, “This heartbeat is amazing. It proves that such signals arising from a supermassive black hole can be very strong and persistent.”
Durham’s Chris Done says, “The main idea for how this heartbeat is formed is that the inner parts of the accretion disc are expanding and contracting.”
He adds, “The only other system we know which seems to do the same thing is a 100,000 times smaller stellar-mass black hole in our Milky Way, fed by a binary companion star, with correspondingly smaller luminosities and timescales. This shows us that simple scaling with black hole mass work even for the rarest types of behaviour.”
An enormous amount of energy releases as the matter falls on to a supermassive black hole as it feeds from the accretion disc of the material surrounding. This energy is released from a tiny region of space. But this is different from the rarely observed repeated pattern like a heartbeat.
Image shows a supermassive black hole and the heartbeat observed in 2009 and 2018.