Scientists Baffled By Strange Gamma Ray 'Heartbeat' From Cosmic Gas Cloud
Scientists have discovered a strange gamma ray 'heartbeat' coming from a cosmic gas cloud, a phenomenon that has left them scratching their heads.
Researchers from Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron say the cloud itself is not unusual, but have become baffled by a pulsating beat that is in sync with a neighbouring black hole 100 light years away.
Discussing the find in a new scientific journal paper, the team from Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron said the cloud and black hole appear to be connected to each other, but it is 'unclear' how.
According to the Independent, they found the 'heartbeat' after looking through 10 years' worth of data from NASA's Fermi gamma ray space telescope.
The research team examined a system known as S 433 approximately 15,000 light years away from Earth, which includes a giant star that's around 30 times the mass of our sun, along with a large black hole.
The black hole and star would orbit around one another every 13 days, with the black hole sucking material from the star.
Study author Jian Li said: "This material accumulates in an accretion disc before falling into the black hole, like water in the whirl above the drain of a bath tub.
"However, a part of that matter does not fall down the drain but shoots out at high speed in two narrow jets in opposite directions above and below the rotating accretion disk."
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This anomolous 'accretion disk' is not exactly in line with orbit of either the star or black hole, meaning it floats around like a spinning top that is not flat, with two jets spiralling around in space rather than shooting out in straight lines.
These jets sway over a period of around 162 days - the same rhythm seen in the gamma-ray signal of the cosmic gas cloud.
Diego F. Torres from the Institute of Space Sciences explained: "The accretion disc does not lie exactly in the plane of the orbit of the two objects. It precesses, or sways, like a spinning top that has been set up slanted.
"As a consequence, the two jets spiral into the surrounding space, rather than just forming a straight line."
Li continued: "Finding such an unambiguous connection via timing, about 100 light years away from the micro quasar, not even along the direction of the jets is as unexpected as amazing.
"But how the black hole can power the gas cloud's heartbeat is unclear to us."
Featured Image Credit: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron