The Anatomy of a Black Hole Flare

Nustar_nustar151026b_1024

nustar_nustar151026b October 27th, 2015

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

This diagram shows how a shifting feature, called a corona, can create a flare of X-rays around a black hole. The corona (feature represented in purplish colors) gathers inward (left), becoming brighter, before shooting away from the black hole (middle and right). Astronomers don't know why the coronas shift, but they have learned that this process leads to a brightening of X-ray light that can be observed by telescopes.

Normally, before a black hole's corona shifts, there is already an effect at work called relativistic boosting. As X-ray light from the corona reflects off the black hole's surrounding disk of material -- which is traveling near half the speed of light -- the X-ray light becomes brightened, as seen on the left side of the illustration. This boosting occurs on the side of the disk where the material is traveling toward us. The opposite effect, a dimming of the X-ray light, occurs on the other side of the disk moving away from us.

Another form of relativistic boosting happens when the corona shoots away from the black hole, and later collapses. Its X-ray light is also brightened, as the corona travels toward, us leading to X-ray flares.

The immense gravity of the black hole warps the appearance of the disk and stars behind it.

In 2014, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and Swift space telescopes witnessed an X-flare from the supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy called Markarian 335. The observations allowed astronomers to link a shifting corona to an X-ray flare for the first time.

Provider: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array

Image Source: https://nustar.caltech.edu/image/nustar151026b

Curator: NuSTAR: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, Pasadena, CA

Image Use Policy: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/

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Image Details

Image Type
Artwork
Object Name
Markarian 335 Mrk 335
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy > Component > Central Black Hole
Star > Circumstellar Material > Disk
Nebula > Type > Jet

Distance

Universescale3
324,000,000 light years
Nustar_nustar151026b_128
 

Position Details

Position
RA = 0h 0m 0.0s
DEC = 0° 0’ 0.0”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
0.0 x 0.0 arcminutes
Constellation
Pisces
Nustar_nustar151026b_1280
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ID
nustar151026b
Subject Category
C.5.4.6   C.3.7.2   C.4.1.5  
Subject Name
Markarian 335, Mrk 335
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)
Release Date
2015-10-27
Lightyears
324,000,000
Redshift
0.025785
Reference Url
https://nustar.caltech.edu/image/nustar151026b
Type
Artwork
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
-, -
Reference Dimension
-, -
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-, -
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-, -
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Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
NuSTAR: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array
URL
http://www.nustar.caltech.edu
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
Country
Rights
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/imagepolicy/
Publisher
Publisher ID
nustar
Resource ID
Metadata Date
2022-06-09T20:28:44Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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Universescalefull
324,000,000 light years