Astronomers have discovered a rare and extremely hungry black hole that is eating up nearby stars at a speed ten times faster that what scientists previously thought possible. Called P13, the black hole resides in the galaxy NGC7793, which is 12 million light years away from the Earth. At the same time, it is unleashing unusually bright X-rays.
This black hole has a companion star
Black holes are leftovers of former stars. They are so dense that nothing escapes their dominant gravitational energy, not even light. Scientists at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) estimate that it is swallowing gases equivalent to the weight of 100 billion billion hot dogs per minute. Why do researchers use hot dogs for measurement of matter? Largely because their weight is not standardized.
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The black hole P13 was first discovered about 30 years ago by NASA’s Einstein X-ray telescope, according to Space.com. But nobody at the time even imagined its massive speed of swallowing gas. It has a companion star, which is about 18 to 23 times the mass of our sun. As P13 sucks gas from its companion, it becomes very bright and hot. As a result, the black hole becomes about a million times brighter than the sun.
Scientists have been studying it for eight years
Scientists studied the black hole and its companion with a combination of X-ray and optical telescopes for eight long years before publishing their findings in the October 9 issue of the journal Nature. Astronomers determined that P13 and its companion complete an oval-shaped orbit around each other in 64 days. The study revealed that rules governing how much a black hole can swallow are not hard and fast.
Dr Roberto Soria of ICRAR said previously scientists believed that the maximum rate at which a black hole could eat up gas and produce light was determined by its size. So, it was pretty safe to assume that P13 was larger than the less bright black holes in our galaxy, Milky Way. But the amount of light it gives off indicates that it is swallowing gas at an exceptional rate.
P13 swallows the equivalent of the mass of the moon every 21 days, or the mass of our planet every four years.