Huge Rings Around a Black Hole

From NASA

Aug 5, 2021

Huge Rings Around a Black Hole

The black hole in V404 Cygni.

 Back to Gallery

A spectacular set of rings around a black hole has been captured using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. The X-ray images of the giant rings have revealed new information about dust located in our Galaxy, using a similar principle to the X-rays performed in doctor’s offices and airports.

The black hole is part of a binary system called V404 Cygni, located about 7,800 light-years away from Earth. The black hole is actively pulling material away from a companion star — with about half the mass of the Sun — into a disk around the invisible object. This material glows in X-rays, so astronomers refer to these systems as “X-ray binaries.”

On June 5 2015, Swift discovered a burst of X-rays from V404 Cygni. The burst created the high-energy rings from a phenomenon known as light echoes. Instead of sound waves bouncing off a canyon wall, the light echoes around V404 Cygni were produced when a burst of X-rays from the black hole system bounced off of dust clouds between V404 Cygni and Earth. Cosmic dust is not like household dust but is more like smoke, and consists of tiny, solid particles.

In a new composite image, X-rays from Chandra (light blue) have been combined with optical data from the Pan-STARRS telescope on Hawaii that show the stars in the field of view. The image contains eight separate concentric rings. Each ring is created by X-rays from V404 Cygni flares observed in 2015 that reflect off different dust clouds. (An artist’s illustration explains how the rings seen by Chandra and Swift were produced. To simplify the graphic, the illustration shows only four rings instead of eight.)

The team analyzed 50 Swift observations made in 2015 between June 30 and August 25. Chandra observed the system on July 11 and 25. It was such a bright event that the operators of Chandra purposely placed V404 Cygni in between the detectors so that another bright burst would not damage the instrument.

The rings tell astronomers not only about the black hole’s behavior, but also about the landscape between V404 Cygni and Earth. For example, the diameter of the rings in X-rays reveals the distances to the intervening dust clouds the light ricocheted off. If the cloud is closer to Earth, the ring appears to be larger and vice versa. The light echoes appear as narrow rings rather than wide rings or haloes because the X-ray burst lasted only a relatively short period of time.

The researchers also used the rings to probe the properties of the dust clouds themselves. The authors compared the X-ray spectra — that is, the brightness of X-rays over a range of wavelengths — to computer models of dust with different compositions. Different compositions of dust will result in different amounts of the lower energy X-rays being absorbed and prevented from being detected with Chandra. This is a similar principle to how different parts of our body or our luggage absorb different amounts of X-rays, giving information about their structure and composition.

The team determined that the dust most likely contains mixtures of graphite and silicate grains. In addition, by analyzing the inner rings with Chandra, they found that the densities of the dust clouds changes are not uniform in all directions. Previous studies have assumed that they did not.

This result is related to a similar finding of the X-ray binary Circinus X-1, which contains a neutron star rather than a black hole, published in a paper in the June 20, 2015, issue of The Astrophysical Journal, titled, “Lord of the Rings: A Kinematic Distance to Circinus X-1 from a Giant X-Ray Light Echo” (preprint). This study was also led by Sebastian Heinz.

The V404 Cygni results were led by the same astronomer, Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. This paper was published in the July 1, 2016 issue of The Astrophysical Journal (preprint). The co-authors of the study are Lia Corrales (University of Michigan); Randall Smith (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian); Niel Brandt (The Pennsylvania State University); Peter Jonker (Netherlands Institute for Space Research); Richard Plotkin (University of Nevada, Reno) and Joey Neilson (Villanova University).

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/U.Wisc-Madison/S. Heinz et al.; Optical/IR: Pan-STARRS

Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/chandra

5 9 votes
Article Rating
54 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steve
August 6, 2021 2:09 am

Wow!

stewartpid
Reply to  Steve
August 6, 2021 9:28 am

If the universe has a sphincter I think we just found it 😉

Interested Observer
Reply to  Steve
August 6, 2021 8:34 pm

Yeah, that’s a lovely artist’s rendition.

I visited the Chandra Images site and I was not impressed by the lack of labeling. Images that are created by artists should be clearly labeled as such but, on the site they are not.

It is one thing to add false colour to an image to highlight the different features; it is an entirely different thing to slip some digital paintings into the mix without making it explicit that they are entirely confected based on speculation.

The image accompanying this article looks to me like an artist’s rendition but, there is no way to confirm it on the Chandra Images site. Either that or, someone didn’t clean the mirror properly. The very straight-line gap running horizontally across the image looks very unnatural to me.

I don’t believe the image is real so, I am disinclined to believe any conclusions based upon the image.

Joe Biden
Reply to  Interested Observer
August 6, 2021 11:08 pm

You’re right, the gap looks unnatural. Why? Because it is. If you’d bothered to read the text that takes up more visual space than the image thumbnails on the Chandra website:

The rings are shown incomplete, with gaps at the upper left, upper right, and middle areas. These gaps show the edges of Chandra’s field of view during the observations, or the sections of the field Chandra did not observe. “

You could’ve learned why the image looks the way it does in a fraction of the time it took to write a snarky and uninformed comment about it. But you apparently chose not to.

Ergo:

I don’t believe your comment is well-informed, so I am disinclined to believe any conclusions based upon your lack of reading comprehension.

Interested Observer
Reply to  Joe Biden
August 7, 2021 6:01 am

I stand by what I wrote. The image looks fake.

However, I wrote the comment before reading all the comments. Vuk’s images explained a lot. Had the site chosen to go with the original image, people would have yawned and said “Who cares about some grey rings on a black background?” Even the colorized version isn’t very impressive so, they had to spice it up by adding a star field as the backdrop.

Slapping two different pictures together and saying “This is evidence of a black hole” is about as credible as splicing two different graphs together and saying “This is evidence of global warming”. Fakery at its finest.

Yes, I discovered (from reading the comments on this site) that there were gaps in the image that are artifacts from the method used to obtain the image. Those gaps look artificial because, they are. But, those perfectly circular rings in the “unadulterated” picture look just as artificial. As others have stated below, it looks like an artifact created by the image processing. Maybe someone did leave a coffee mug on the machine (but I doubt that the lens needs cleaning, given that it’s on a space telescope.)

As for my conclusions, I’m not really interested in your opinion, you corrupt, demented old pervert. You are not MY president and soon enough you won’t be anyone’s.

TomO
August 6, 2021 4:08 am

Apols … utterly off topic (well, false colour images aside:-)

straw poll:

anybody seen new “Colours of Hydrogen” ?

so far:

Green
Blue
Pink
Turquoise

– seen any others?

fretslider
August 6, 2021 5:00 am

you can’t see Apollo from the ground

Asclepius will see you now….

James Donald Bailey
August 6, 2021 6:11 am

too many sharp boundaries. the ones in the upper corners look like someone forgot a couple patches of their patchwork quilt of pictures. but what creates the empty band in the middle?

Vuk
Reply to  James Donald Bailey
August 6, 2021 9:50 am

“The rings are shown incomplete, with gaps at the upper left, upper right, and middle areas. These gaps show the edges of Chandra’s field of view during the observations, or the sections of the field Chandra did not observe.”comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
Tom Abbott
Reply to  Vuk
August 6, 2021 4:48 pm

Excellent, Vuk! I was wondering how that came about.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  James Donald Bailey
August 6, 2021 9:55 am

TYhe photo in the article looks processes or maybe an artists reconstruction as so often crops up.

The actual photo which you can see on chandra website referenced in the article has less sharp but still impressive boundaries. As the article says, the belief is that these “rings” are reflections from x-ray pulses. The pulse wavefronts are perfectly circular and sharp because the bursts are sudden.

bluecat57
Reply to  Jim Whelan
August 6, 2021 11:50 am

Am I correct that none of the space “photos” are really photographs but digital information that someone assigns colors to to create an image?

Johann von Puyallup
Reply to  bluecat57
August 6, 2021 12:57 pm

Right, not a Kodak moment.
But, to be fair, it is a legitimate translation of the data into the visible, and we are somewhat limited in our perception of the electro-magnetic spectrum.

Alastair Brickell
August 6, 2021 6:32 am

A great image.

Reminds me of somewhat similar light echos (but in the visible spectrum) seen from Eta Carinae’s 1850-ish event. We could see that outburst being replayed in real time around 2010-2011. A bit like having a time machine.

Greg
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
August 6, 2021 7:25 am

I’d really like to see the equation describing a “light echo”.
What does the echo from a cloud of gas look like? I’m fascinated.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg
Jim Whelan
Reply to  Greg
August 6, 2021 9:59 am

What does the echo from a cloud of gas look like?

A circle! The equation is simply that of a EM wave emitted from a point. The “echo” is simply EM radiation from gas particles that have been excited by the original wave.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
August 6, 2021 11:26 am

I have a time machine in my basement. It only goes in one direction (forward), at the same rate as the clock.

It’s really just a box…

DonM
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
August 6, 2021 2:47 pm

comment image&f=1&nofb=1

Hartmut Hufenbach
Reply to  Alastair Brickell
August 7, 2021 1:32 am

Reminds me of a smoker creating smoke rings….

Please take loo look at:

comment image

August 6, 2021 6:46 am

Yes, but which is the greatest black hole of them all? Is it TON-618….large er than 6 or 7 solar systems?….or is it griffy’s cranium interior?

bluecat57
August 6, 2021 6:50 am

They forgot to clean the lens and shut the lights off in the observatory.

Reply to  bluecat57
August 6, 2021 11:45 am

Or, we’ll see the day-later correction: “Sorry, somebody set a coffee mug on the image processing screen while it was being serviced.”

mrrabbit
Reply to  bluecat57
August 8, 2021 9:47 pm

Clearly and artifact from camera, hardware, lens, etc.

John Shotsky
August 6, 2021 6:53 am

Reminds me of the headline years ago (maybe the 70’s) that announced ‘Scientists find rings around Uranus’ (your anus).

fretslider
Reply to  John Shotsky
August 6, 2021 6:57 am

Now pronounced as

yur…annus.

In the post-modern world innuendo is neither understood nor appreciated.

Redge
Reply to  fretslider
August 6, 2021 10:25 am

innuendo

~sniggers~

MarkW
August 6, 2021 6:57 am

Perhaps because it’s 230,000 miles away?
The Apollo landing sites can be seen from orbit and have been photographed by satellites of more than one nation.

Ruleo
Reply to  MarkW
August 8, 2021 4:51 pm

You mean that blurred 3-pixelated rock they call Apollo?

Sure thing buddy.

Greg
August 6, 2021 7:21 am

The light echoes appear as narrow rings rather than wide rings or haloes because the X-ray burst lasted only a relatively short period of time.

What utter bollox. Did they copy this “explanation” from WonkyPedia or what ?

Stuffing the star field on top of Xray images is pop science at it’s worst.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg
August 6, 2021 8:20 am

I ask me, where the Black Hole is.
As it’s said, the rings are around it, I have problems to imagine to see stars through it.

Sara
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 6, 2021 8:27 am

I think the majority of those stars are in the foreground.

Reply to  Sara
August 6, 2021 8:38 am

It’s a possibility, right, but as the ring is also covering stars of behind where the ring is in the foreground. It’s an open question of the depth of field and ~ focus.

Vuk
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 6, 2021 9:41 am

It says: “In a new composite image, X-rays from Chandra (light blue) have been combined with optical data from the Pan-STARRS telescope on Hawaii that show the stars in the field of view. The image contains eight separate concentric rings.”

Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
August 6, 2021 9:44 am

comment image
+comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
James Donald Bailey
Reply to  Vuk
August 6, 2021 11:53 am

thanks, for this and your answer to my question.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 6, 2021 10:02 am

The black hole is too small to be observed.

Frank from NoVA
August 6, 2021 8:22 am

“A spectacular set of rings around a black hole has been captured using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. The X-ray images of the giant rings have revealed new information about dust located in our Galaxy…”

In a follow-up communique, NASA and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory jointly announced that further research is needed to develop the capability of launching giant Swiffers into deep space to clean up the newly discovered mess. “There’s way to much dust up there impeding our ability to see…”

Richard G.
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
August 8, 2021 10:12 am

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”-Mark Twain

August 6, 2021 8:27 am

Anyone think that image is an artifact of the lens or aperture?

Reply to  Mario Lento
August 6, 2021 8:44 am

I don’t think so.

Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 6, 2021 8:50 am

Well, it looks like a fake overlay or something not real.

Vuk
Reply to  Mario Lento
August 6, 2021 9:53 am

Mario, see my comments further above, apparently there are explanations for somewhat confusing details of the headline image.

Jim Whelan
Reply to  Mario Lento
August 6, 2021 10:01 am

I am sure it has been processed. It’s already admitted to be an overlay over a star field. The original is available on the chndra website. Still impressive.

August 6, 2021 10:06 am

In other news, the CCP is shutting down all or parts of Beijing and Wuhan becuz of the Delta Variant …some justice prevails.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 6, 2021 11:28 am

It would be justice if the party apparatchiks were the ones getting infected.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Anti_griff
August 6, 2021 4:54 pm

I hear the Chicom-made vaccine is not very good.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
David A
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 6, 2021 11:27 pm

None of them are.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David A
August 7, 2021 5:58 am

None of them?

Dmacleo
August 6, 2021 1:22 pm

its a Supergate

The Supergate is a massive Stargate developed by the Ori

https://stargate.fandom.com/wiki/Supergate

Vuk
August 6, 2021 1:28 pm

Aussies have even more interesting stuff:
Dancing ghosts point to new discoveries in the cosmocomment image
“When we first saw the ‘dancing ghosts’ we had no idea what they were. After weeks of work, we figured out we were seeing two ‘host’ galaxies, about a billion light years away. In their centres are two supermassive black holes, squirting out jets of electrons that are then bent into grotesque shapes by an intergalactic wind.”
https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/newscentre/news_centre/more_news_stories/dancing_ghosts_point_to_new_discoveries_in_the_cosmos

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Vuk
August 6, 2021 5:00 pm

Give me the good ole Milky Way anytime. It’s nice to look at these monsters of space from a safe distance. Humans got lucky with where we were born.

We need to take luck out of the human race equation by becoming a space-faring race, ASAP.

Vuk
Reply to  Tom Abbott
August 7, 2021 6:02 am

Cryogenics in deep space requires minimum of energy, freeze up Elon Musk with few climate scientists and dispatch them outside solar system along MW’s spiral towards the centre where the density of stars (and consequently habitable planets) is much greater then at the outskirts where we’ve found ourselves. Set the half-time alarm clock with lump of uranium (234 or 235 or even 238) depending how far you want them to go with the available propulsion system.

Red94ViperRT10
August 7, 2021 1:54 pm

I did not take the time to peruse comments, I’m just curious… Moderators, how many jokes have you had to delete about “…rings around Uranus…”?

%d bloggers like this: