New Photo Of Andromeda Galaxy Shows Massive Black Holes

In a new photo of the Andromeda galaxy, our Milky Way’s neighbor, it unveils an X-ray source which was originally thought to be trapped inside the galaxy. However, it turned out to be 1,000 times farther away. The original study was published in a paper in the Astrophysical journal.

Astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes to find a supermassive black hole, that could be the most tightly paired to be seen yet. The black hole is called J0045 + 41 for which astronomers thought it was a star in the Andromeda galaxy. It is expected that the Andromeda galaxy will merge with the Milky Way in roughly 4 billion years.

“We were looking for a special type of star in M31 and thought we had found one,” said lead researcher Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, in a statement. “We were surprised and excited to find something far stranger!”

When astronomers thought that J0045+41 was inside the Andromeda galaxy, they classified it as a pair of stars which were orbiting each other once every 76 days. However, the data from Chandra revealed that the intensity of the X-ray signal was far beyond that classification. Then Dorn-Wallenstein thought that the pair was instead a binary black hole and neutron star, which led to more study in order to find out.

However, the Gemini-North telescope’s spectral data revealed that J0045+41 needed to include at least one supermassive black hole. That helped researchers calculate the object’s distance. The X-ray source is 2.6 billion light-years away and is likely a pair of supermassive black holes, which are wrapped in a binary orbit. When combined, those black holes have a total mass of 200 million times that of the Sun. The black hole, which is located in the center of the Milky Way is called Sagittarius A* and its mass is around 4 million times the mass of the Sun.

The two black holes shown in a new photo of the Andromeda galaxy are orbiting each other at a close distance, in terms of space, at less than one-hundredth of a light-year. Their distance is only a few hundred times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The team behind this research thinks that the black holes could have been at the center of a galaxy. As they are slowly being attracted by each other’s gravity, they are expected to collide at some point.




About the Author

Danica Simic
Danica Simic has been writing ever since she was a child. Before she started writing for ValueWalk she was reviewing laptops, headphones and gaming equipment as well as writing articles about astronomy and game development. Danica is a student of applied and computational physics while also studying software and data engineering. Her hobbies include reading, swimming, drawing and gaming whenever she has free time. - Email her at dsimic@valuewalk.com