The University of Southampton

Astronomers find black hole's "heartbeat"

Published: 8 March 2022
(L) A large corona around the black hole. (R) Smaller corona as jets blast out. Image Mendez et al

Astronomers have found that the wind that blasts out of a black hole only occurs after it has built up a hot outer layer of plasma, known as its corona. In the study researchers observed the behaviour of a black hole and developed a cosmic echocardiogram graph, showing its "heartbeat".

A black hole also appears to first collect material and heat it up in a so-called corona, to spit it out in jets. This mirrors the way blood in a human heart cannot be in the atrium and in ventricles at the same time.

The research team, led by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and including the University of Southampton, has published its results in Nature Astronomy. The study involved collecting fifteen years of data from several telescopes.

"Sometimes we need years of regular observations to learn fundamental physics. This is one of those cases, where we had to combine fifteen years of data from ground-based and space-based telescopes to understand how this black hole is interacting with its environment," says co-author of the study Dr Diego Altamirano from the University of Southampton.

Read the full story on the University of Southampton website

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