(ORDO NEWS) — A heavily tilted black hole has been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy that challenges current theories of how these objects formed. The black hole and its companion star are a binary system, designated MAXI J1820+070, about 10,000 light-years from Earth.
This system was first discovered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2018, but recent observations made with the Northern Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands have shown that the behavior of this black hole does not match astronomers’ expectations. The corresponding article was published in the journal Science.
By studying the orientation of the black hole’s jets — jets of ionized matter emitted from the poles — astronomer Jüri Poutanen of the University of Turku in Finland found that the black hole rotates at least 40° inclined to the plane of its common orbit with its companion.
This is the biggest “skewness” of all such cases. “We observed the X-ray binary black hole MAXI J1820+070 with a high-precision optical polarimeter,” Poutanen explained in an interview with Space.com.
Using the obtained data, we determined the configuration of the orbits. Orientation as the black hole rotates can be obtained from radio and X-ray observations of the relativistic jets observed in the system.”
Theoretical models suggest that such binary systems with black holes sucking material out of their companion should rotate almost exactly around an axis perpendicular to their common orbital plane.
The strange feature of MAXI J1820 + 070 is now being explained by some initial push during the formation of the supernova that gave rise to this black hole.
The authors of the work considered it unlikely that the displacement could occur at a later stage in the evolution of this system, since the process of accretion (falling out) of matter onto a black hole and gravitational interactions between these objects always contribute to the alignment of the axes.
The discovery could have broader implications for black hole science, the scientists say, as the existence of such inconsistencies could lead to skewed estimates of black hole masses and orientations.
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