(ORDO NEWS) — Appearances can be deceiving. It seems to us that an incandescent lamp gives off a continuous stream of light, but in fact it flickers at a frequency of 120 times per second.
Since the brain perceives information only in an average form, we do not notice the fluctuations in brightness and perceive the light flux as continuous – although this is just an illusion.
Even though light cannot escape the black hole, the bright glow of gas in its vicinity is actually a kind of flicker as well.
In a new study, a team led by Lena Murchikova of the Institute for Advanced Study, UK, has been able to use this subtle scintillation to build the most detailed model to date of our Galaxy’s central black hole, called Sagittarius A*, providing valuable information about structure and movement of this mysterious object.
For the first time, researchers have been able to reproduce, within a single model, the entire history of the movement of gas in the center of the Milky Way, from stars to falling into a black hole.
By reading “between the lines” (or flickering light brightness extremes), the team concluded that the most likely scenario is that a black hole at the center of the galaxy is powered directly by gas falling on it from great distances, while as an alternative hypothesis, consisting in the fact that the black hole is slowly “sucking out” the material from the ring of fragments circulating around it for a long time, has not been confirmed.
The stellar wind model built by Murchikova’s team assumes that material is absorbed not from the artificial-looking torus surrounding the black hole, but from a more realistic source – stars located in the vicinity of the center of the Galaxy and losing their gas directly to the black hole.
“When this gas falls into a black hole, we get exactly the kind of scintillation that is consistent with observations,” Murchikova explained.
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