Marking a significant achievement, Indian astronomers have detected an active galaxy 5 billion light-years away that is emitting 10 times more X-ray emission than normal. Experts revealed that the X-rays emitted from the galaxy are equivalent to over 10 trillion suns and the galaxy itself could help probe how particles behave under intense gravity and acceleration to the speed of light. In addition to this, astronomers might also solve the mystery of the role of strong gravity and acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction, and evolution of galaxies in the early universe.
It could help study the role of strong gravity: Experts
The galaxy, which hosts a supermassive black hole (SMBH) dubbed OJ 287 at its center, could help study the role of strong gravity and acceleration of matter in the formation, interaction, and evolution of galaxies in the early universe. According to the official release by the Ministry of Science and Technology, astronomers from the Government of India’s Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences have been monitoring OJ 287 since 2015 and have found a repeated optical brightness enhancement almost every 12 years.
The release further revealed, “The repeated optical enhancement makes OJ 287 very intriguing as this class of sources does not show any repeating features in flux variations. The repeated optical enhancement made the researchers believe that the system hosts a binary black hole”. This particular black hole too, like others, devours a large amount of material and shoots a jet of plasma almost at the speed of light outwards, and is termed ‘blazars’. The findings suggest that OJ 287 belongs to a class of blazars and a study of such sources tells us about the behavior of matter in an extreme gravitational field where it is difficult for light also to escape from the vicinity of the black hole.
The team of astronomers led by Dr. Pankaj Kushwaha and Dr. Alok C. Gupta found in 2020 that the source was very bright at optical and X-ray bands with X-ray emission more than 10 times the normal rate. “This flare was very different as it was not expected in models proposed for this source and thus, indicated a more complex system and physical conditions”, said the release. According to the team, detection of this change of state could help understand how matter behaves in very strong gravity and how it accelerates the particle to almost the speed of light, something which would not be possible even with the most advanced CERN accelerator.