The conundrum is that the disk shouldn’t be there, based on current astronomical theories. However, the unexpected presence of a disk so close to a black hole offers a unique opportunity to test Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity. General relativity describes gravity as the curvature of space and special relativity describes the relationship between time and space.
“We’ve never seen the effects of both general and special relativity in visible light with this much clarity,” said Marco Chiaberge of the European Space Agency, and the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland, a member of the team that conducted the Hubble study.
“This is an intriguing peek at a disk very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how the photons of light look,” added the study’s first author, Stefano Bianchi of Università degli Studi Roma Tre, in Rome, Italy. “We cannot understand the data unless we include the theories of relativity.” …
“The type of disk we see is a scaled-down quasar that we did not expect to exist,” Bianchi said. “It’s the same type of disk we see in objects that are 1,000 or even 100,000 times more luminous. The predictions of current models for gas dynamics in very faint active galaxies clearly failed.” Paper. (open access) – Stefano Bianchi, Robert Antonucci, Alessandro Capetti, Marco Chiaberge, Ari Laor, Loredana Bassani, Francisco J Carrera, Fabio La Franca, Andrea Marinucci, Giorgio Matt, Riccardo Middei, Francesca Panessa. HST unveils a compact mildly relativistic broad-line region in the candidate true type 2 NGC 3147. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, 2019; 488 (1): L1 DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/slz080 More.
It’s fun reading about black hole studies where the hole isn’t targeted as the gateway to a multiverse. Just an outcome of the physics of our universe. But still kind of mysterious…
Sometimes, when it comes to getting real information, less is more.
See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Black holes vs. quantum mechanics: Something has to give
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