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ALMA Spots Twinkling Heart of Milky Way

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Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) found quasi-periodic flickers in millimeter-waves from the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius (Sgr) A*. The team interpreted these blinks to be due to the rotation of radio spots circling the supermassive black hole with an orbit radius smaller than that of Mercury. This is an interesting clue to investigate space-time with extreme gravity.

Hot spots circling around the black hole could produce the quasi-periodic millimeter emission detected with ALMA. 
Credit: Keio University

“It has been known that Sgr A* sometimes flares up in millimeter wavelength,” tells Yuhei Iwata, the lead author of the paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and a graduate student at Keio University, Japan. “This time, using ALMA, we obtained high-quality data of radio-wave intensity variation of Sgr A* for 10 days, 70 minutes per day. Then we found two trends: quasi-periodic variations with a typical time scale of 30 minutes and hour-long slow variations.”

Astronomers presume that a supermassive black hole with a mass of 4 million suns is located at the center of Sgr A*. Flares of Sgr A* have been observed not only in millimeter wavelength, but also in infrared light and X-ray. However, the variations detected with ALMA are much smaller than the ones previously detected, and it is possible that these levels of small variations always occur in Sgr A*.

The black hole itself does not produce any kind of emission. The source of the emission is the scorching gaseous disk around the black hole. The gas around the black hole does not go straight to the gravitational well, but it rotates around the black hole to form an accretion disk.

The team focused on short timescale variations and found that the variation period of 30 minutes is comparable to the orbital period of the innermost edge of the accretion disk with the radius of 0.2 astronomical units (1 astronomical unit corresponds to the distance between the Earth and the Sun: 150 million kilometers). For comparison, Mercury, the solar system’s innermost planet, circles around the Sun at a distance of 0.4 astronomical units. Considering the colossal mass at the center of the 

black hole, its gravity effect is also extreme in the accretion disk.

The different color dots show the flux at different frequencies (blue: 234.0 GHz, green: 219.5 GHz, red: 217.5 GHz). Variations with about a 30-minute period are seen in the diagram.

Credit: Y. Iwata et al./Keio University

“This emission could be related with some exotic phenomena occurring at the very vicinity of the supermassive black hole,” says Tomoharu Oka, a professor at Keio University.

Their scenario is as follows. Hot spots are sporadically formed in the disk and circle around the black hole, emitting strong millimeter waves. According to Einstein’s special relativity theory, the emission is largely amplified when the source is moving toward the observer with a speed comparable to that of light. The rotation speed of the inner edge of the accretion disk is quite large, so this extraordinary effect arises. The astronomers believe that this is the origin of the short-term variation of the millimeter emission from Sgr A*.

The team supposes that the variation might affect the effort to make an image of the supermassive black hole with the Event Horizon Telescope. “In general, the faster the movement is, the more difficult it is to take a photo of the object,” says Oka. “Instead, the variation of the emission itself provides compelling insight for the gas motion. We may witness the very moment of gas absorption by the black hole with a long-term monitoring campaign with ALMA.” The researchers aim to draw out independent information to understand the mystifying environment around the supermassive black hole.

The research team members are: Yuhei Iwata (Keio University), Tomoharu Oka (Keio University), Masato Tsuboi (Japan Space Exploration Agency/The University of Tokyo), Makoto Miyoshi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/SOKENDAI), and Shunya Takekawa (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

Contacts and sources:
Dr. Masaaki Hiramatsu

The National Institutes of Natural Sciences
Publication:

 



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  • Counter Analysis

    A few thoughts… Imagine how short the original electromagnetic wavelength must be before it is stretched out upon leaving the vicinity of the black hole. Perhaps the matter falling into the black hole accelerates infinitely close to the speed of light before disappearing into the event horizon. If the universe is a closed system, then perhaps the matter that may be exiting the universe into the black hole forces an energetic discharge in keeping with the energy can neither be created nor destroyed principle (First Law of Thermodynamics), albeit this presupposes increased gravity is not energy. But if gravity is distorted topology of space-time, it’s hard to consider it energy. I personally don’t consider gravity as a separate force, but rather as a direct derivative of electromagnetism.

    In my model, the fundamental particles of matter are constantly annihilating against the antimatter member of virtual pairs, thus leaving the matter member of the virtual pair as the remaining actual particle. Upon annihilation, a photon is released that connects the new actual particle with the next virtual antimatter particle. The energy of the photons between annihilation remain constant for objects at rest. The energy required to overcome inertia, is the energy required to change the energy of the photons between annihilation.

    I hold out the possibility that virtual particle pairs of an electron and positron may be all that is needed to compose space-time. Perhaps hadrons such as neutrons and protons oscillate between each other as they collide with virtual positrons, but oscillate may be a poor word, as multiple collisions can occur on all sides of a hadron in just the right number to preserve its status. Decay of a hadron may occur when the multiple annihilations fail to even out and preserve the hadron’s status. Neutrons and protons are very stable because the multiple simultaneous annihilatons are consistant and leave no imbalance. More exotic hadrons decay quickly, because for whatever reason, the annihlations are not perfectly balanced, and there is a remainder of energy that reaches a point where it can react with some other particle, thus instantly changing the hadron into a more stable variant plus byproducts.

    Virtual pairs are all interconnected with each other like a series of chains or a three dimensional net. So an object at rest feels not just the electromagnetic force between it and surrounding virtual pairs, but also all other virtual pairs, and the virtual pairs between each other. That force is quantum and disappears upon annihilation so it is not infinite. But the interconnected nature drags space-time, or the matrix of virtual pairs toward the object, and that is gravity, and is the elusive connection between gravity and light. This also explains the glaring lack of graviton discovery.

    Mysterious is how a black hole, from which light cannot escape, can form if gravity is merely a function of electromagnetism. A couple of thoughts… A true black hole may not exist in the present. The time dilation with extreme gravity may mean an actual black hole exists infinitely far into the future. If you were to travel toward a black hole, the event horizon would retreat probably forever. The further you are in the gravity well, the point at which light can reach you from within the well is further than for an observer further out in the well. You may have already passed the event horizon of a distant observer, but have not passed it relative to your point. Or the distant observer may see you as frozen in place moving infinitely slow on the edge of the event horizon. Perhaps space-time grows concave to distant observers of black holes til light cannot escape. At the point matter is cut off from outside, perhaps all the electromagnetic force between it and the outside virtual particles is suddenly liberated and emitted in energy equal to that lost to the black hole.

    If my model is correct, there is the mystery of gravitational red shift. I get the idea of stretched space-time stretching the wavelength. But how does that work on the quantum level of virtual pair space-time? Does light at a certain wavelength, jump from virtual pair to virtual pair at the wavelength interval? If the multiple virtual pairs condense or move away from the outside observer (light receiver) due to gravity , the light moving toward the observer may be stretched as it conserves its energy (interval between pairs) relative to space time.

    These are my original thoughts minus the obvious orthodox accepted precepts. If accurate, they may have already been considered as they are not too deep into layers of extrapolation.

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