Huge, Spectacular Rings around a Black Hole Captured: How did such Rings Form?

Black hole rings

One of the most mysterious objects for human beings, the concept of the black hole has always puzzled scientists. Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, astronomers now say that an image of a huge, spectacular set of rings around a black hole has been captured. Part of a binary system called V404 Cygni, the black hole is located about 7,800 light years away from Earth. Studying the rings of dust and matter around a black hole can help scientists solve some of the puzzles.

Black hole

Obviously, scientists have theorized a black hole as an empty ‘hole’ in space where the matter is compressed so hard that even light cannot escape its powerful gravitational pull. Also called singularity, a black hole is a prediction of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Black holes are among the most mysterious objects in our Universe, powerful phenomena as predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity.

In this theory, Einstein showed that massive objects like stars will curve the space-time around them, creating what we call gravity. If a star is massive enough (and dense enough) it will create a black hole, an object with so much gravity that nothing can escape it – not even light. Black holes swallow up everything in their path.

Astronomers say every galaxy has at least a black hole in its center and our Milky Way galaxy has also a supermassive black hole at its center.

How do such spectacular rings form around a black hole?

But to understand the formation of finely structured rings of gas, scientists are puzzled and are seeking alternate explanations for formation of such rings. The black hole captured in a new image by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Neil Gehrels Swift observatory is forming a large cloud of gas, detected as ring-like structure around the black hole.

Scientists are surprised to find out that this type of object is still not very well understood. There is still a debate about whether this type of object is formed due to the collapse of a star or due to the vortex-like activity of the system.

Scientists have also theorized that there are two different processes that cause formation of such rings. One process is when material orbiting around a neutron star, while the other one occurs in binary systems where gas surrounding an active central object creates these rings.

How are the disks formed in the image?

Astronomers say that 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.”

Black Hole binary system

A binary system consists of two objects orbiting a common center. The more massive object is referred to as primary, the less massive object is the secondary object. Many binaries, including, X-ray binaries, Eclipsing binaries etc., have been discovered to-date.

Why are the images useful in future space exploration?

According to astronomers, the X-ray images of the giant rings reveal information about dust located in our galaxy, using a similar principle to the X-rays performed in doctor’s offices and airports.

In addition to this, the X-ray study of the rings could give scientists insights into their role in the formation and evolution of galaxies.

  • June 3, 2022
Universe & Existence