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X-Ray Nova Reveals a New Black Hole in Our Galaxy

On Sept. 16, NASA's Swift satellite detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from a source toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The outburst, produced by a rare X-ray nova, announced the presence of a previously unknown stellar-mass black hole.

An X-ray nova is a short-lived X-ray source that appears suddenly, reaches its emission peak in a few days and then fades out over a period of months. The outburst arises when a torrent of stored gas suddenly rushes toward one of the most compact objects known, either a neutron star or a black hole.

Named Swift J1745-26 after the coordinates of its sky position, the nova is located a few degrees from the center of our galaxy toward the constellation Sagittarius. While astronomers do not know its precise distance, they think the object resides about 20,000 to 30,000 light-years away in the galaxy's inner region. The pattern of X-rays from the nova signals that the central object is a black hole.

Ground-based observatories detected infrared and radio emissions, but thick clouds of obscuring dust have prevented astronomers from catching Swift J1745-26 in visible light.

The black hole must be a member of a low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) system, which includes a normal, sun-like star. A stream of gas flows from the normal star and enters into a storage disk around the black hole. In most LMXBs, the gas in the disk spirals inward, heats up as it heads toward the black hole, and produces a steady stream of X-rays.

But under certain conditions, stable flow within the disk depends on the rate of matter flowing into it from the companion star. At certain rates, the disk fails to maintain a steady internal flow and instead flips between two dramatically different conditions -- a cooler, less ionized state where gas simply collects in the outer portion of the disk like water behind a dam, and a hotter, more ionized state that sends a tidal wave of gas surging toward the center.

This phenomenon, called the thermal-viscous limit cycle, helps astronomers explain transient outbursts across a wide range of systems, from protoplanetary disks around young stars, to dwarf novae - where the central object is a white dwarf star - and even bright emission from supermassive black holes in the hearts of distant galaxies.

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Another multimedia item related to this story:
     X-ray Nova Flaring Black Hole animation (id 11110)
More information on this topic available at:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/new-black-hole.html

Short narrated video.    Short narrated video.

For complete transcript, click here.
Duration: 2.3 minutes
Available formats:
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         1 GB
  1280x720 (59.94 fps) QT         959 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         76 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) QT         71 MB
  960x540 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   60 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) QT         48 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) WMV         47 MB
  1280x720 (30 fps) QT         45 MB
  1280x720 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   42 MB
  640x360 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   25 MB
  320x240 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   12 MB
  1920x1080 TIFF         5 MB
  1920x1080 JPEG         227 KB
  960x540 (29.97 fps) WEBM         21 MB
  320x180     JPEG         32 KB
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Sequence of high resolution stills of Swift J1745-26 from September 13 to September 26, 2012. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm    Sequence of high resolution stills of Swift J1745-26 from September 13 to September 26, 2012.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm
Duration: 3.1 seconds
Available formats:
  2040x1147 TIFF         6 MB
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  2040x1148 (30 fps) QT         1 MB
  2040x1148 (29.97 fps) QT         10 MB
  2040x1148 (29.97 fps) QT         4 MB
  2040x1147 (29.97 fps) MPEG-4   2 MB
  2040x1147 (29.97 fps) QT         38 MB
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Swift J1745-26 with labels and scale of moon as it would appear in the field of view from Earth. This image is from September 18, 2012 when the source peaked in hard X-rays. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm    Swift J1745-26 with labels and scale of moon as it would appear in the field of view from Earth. This image is from September 18, 2012 when the source peaked in hard X-rays.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm

Available formats:
  2037 x 1146     TIFF   847 KB


Swift J1745-26.  This image is from September 18, 2012 when the source peaked in hard X-rays.  No Labels Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm    Swift J1745-26. This image is from September 18, 2012 when the source peaked in hard X-rays. No Labels

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Immler and H. Krimm

Available formats:
  2037 x 1146     TIFF       6 MB

Short URL to This Page:http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?11108
Animation Number:11108
Completed:2012-10-04
Animators:Michael Lentz (USRA) (Lead)
 Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Video Editor:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Narrator:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Producer:Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Scientists:Stefan Immler (UMCP)
 Hans Krimm (USRA)
Writers:Francis Reddy (Syneren Technologies)
 Scott Wiessinger (USRA)
Platform/Sensor/Data Set:Swift
Series:Narrated Movies
 Astrophysics Animations
 Astrophysics Stills
 Astrophysics Features
Goddard TV Tape:G2012-103 -- Flaring Black Hole
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual images should be credited as indicated above.
 
Keywords:
SVS >> HDTV
SVS >> Milky Way
SVS >> Music
SVS >> X-ray
SVS >> Black Hole
SVS >> Astrophysics
SVS >> Edited Feature
SVS >> Space
SVS >> Swift
DLESE >> Narrated
SVS >> Star
 
 


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Many of our multimedia items use the GCMD keywords. These keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 8.0.0.0.0

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