What it Sounds Like When Light Echoes Off the Accretion Disk of a Black Hole



Researchers have developed a new automated search tool, called “Reverberation Machine,” to sift through satellite data for signs of black hole echoes. To date, they have discovered eight new echoing black hole binaries in our galaxy. What do they represent? Put simply, the time delays between two types of X-ray light: light emitted directly from the corona, and light from the corona that bounces off the accretion disk.

The time it takes for a telescope to receive light from the corona is them compared to when it receives the X-ray echoes, thus providing an estimate of the distance between the corona and the accretion disk. Researchers studying how these time delays change can reveal how a black hole’s corona and disk evolve as the black hole consumes stellar material. In related news, this dancing S2 star around a supermassive black hole proved Albert Einstein’s theory.


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The role of black holes in galaxy evolution is an outstanding question in modern astrophysics. Interestingly, these black hole binaries appear to be ‘mini’ supermassive black holes, and so by understanding the outbursts in these small, nearby systems, we can understand how similar outbursts in supermassive black holes affect the galaxies in which they reside,” said Erin Kara, assistant professor of physics at MIT.



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