The New Method for Calculating The Mass of The Black Hole

Astronomy Science ~ The new study shows that large black holes that lurk at the core of every galaxy is significantly larger than previousl...

Astronomy Science ~ The new study shows that large black holes that lurk at the core of every galaxy is significantly larger than previously imagined. The researchers used a new method to measure the distance to the active spiral galaxy NGC 4151 (a galaxy dubbed the "Eye of Sauron" because of its resemblance to the structure of the eye in the "Lord of the Rings" movie) with a precision that has never happened before. These calculations allowed them to determine the mass of the black hole in NGC 4151 is more accurate - and the results were surprising.

"Our calculations show that the supermassive black hole 40 percent heavier than originally predicted," said study co-author Darach Watson, from the University of Copenhagen Niels Bohr Institute (NBI), said in a statement. "It fundamentally changed the determination of the mass of the black hole."

Image of the supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy NGC 4151 taken by several different telescopes. This structure dubbed the "Eye of Sauron" because of its resemblance to the structure of the eye in the "Lord of the Rings" movie.
Image of the supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy NGC 4151 taken by several different telescopes. This structure dubbed the "Eye of Sauron" because of its resemblance to the structure of the eye in the "Lord of the Rings" movie.
Supermassive black holes can have masses hundreds of millions or even billions of times the mass of the sun. Previous estimates of the distance of the black hole at the center of NGC 4151 that relies on measuring the redshift - how the wavelength of light that is extended by the motion of objects away from the observer on Earth. This technique gives inaccurate results, with estimates ranging from 13 million to 95 million light-years away, said Watson.

So a team of researchers, led by Sebastian Honig at the University of Southampton in England, trying different methods: the geometry. Currently NGC 4151 black hole pulls gas around it, the material will heat up and releases ultraviolet radiation (UV). This radiation, in turn, heats the ring of dust orbiting the black hole, causing the dust emit infrared radiation.

Observations by Earth-based telescopes have revealed that the time delay between the UV and infrared emission is 30 days. Because of the speed of light is known, calculate the distance between the black hole and the ring dust is a relatively easy matter.

The researchers used the twin Keck telescopes in Hawaii to measure the angle rings made of dust in the sky - just 12/1 million degrees. They combine the light collected by the telescope using a technique called interferometry. This method produces a resolution of about 100 times greater than that achieved by the Hubble telescope.



Then the team can calculate the distance to the Eye of Sauron using geometry. Distance from the black hole dust ring form the basis of an isosceles triangle, long legs is the distance from the Earth to the two sides of the ring; with a sharp point angle of the triangle are known, the distance legs' can be calculated. The team calculates the distance to NGC 4151 to 62 million light years from Earth with an error rate of only 13.5 percent or more. This increased accuracy will help researchers estimate the actual weight of a supermassive black hole, said Watson.

"The calculation of the mass (weight) of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy depends on two main factors: the speed of rotation of the stars in the galaxy and how far it is from the black hole orbiting a nearby star," he said. "The speed of rotation can be observed, and the distance from the black hole to orbit a star discs can now be calculated precisely by using this new method."

Early indications suggest that the mass of a supermassive black hole may be 40 percent larger than previous estimates. The researchers hope to expand their measurements to other active galaxies; This technique could ultimately help astronomers better understand the rate at which the universe is expanding, said study team member.

The new study is published in the Nature journal.
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Astronomy Science: The New Method for Calculating The Mass of The Black Hole
The New Method for Calculating The Mass of The Black Hole
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