Monday, 29 May, 2017

Scientists Catch Star And Possible Black Hole In A Rapid, Dangerous Dance

An artist's impression of white dwarf star X9 in orbit around a black hole This Little Star Is Perilously Close to the Black Hole It Orbits
Heather Davidson | 17 March, 2017, 01:38

Using data from an selection of deep space telescopes, astronomers have found a star whizzing around a black hole, just 2.5 times the distance that is found between the Earth and the moon at nearly one million kilometres. The black hole and white dwarf binary system is called X9.

That's because it has the closest orbit ever seen between a black hole and a companion star.

"We don't think it will follow a path into oblivion, but instead will stay in orbit", Bahramian added. Researchers subsequently chose to combine the superb capabilities of the three telescopes to study the relatively unexplored binary in unprecedented detail.

According to EurekAlert, the discovery was made with the help of three of the most advanced X-ray and radio telescopes in existence: the Chandara X-ray Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) from NASA and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA).

So because of the crowded region within the cluster, they interact with each other and a strong gravitation of the black hole pulled the white dwarf out of that binary and made a binary with it, while the other third possible star was kicked away from this system.

Although the white dwarf does not appear to be in danger of falling in or being torn apart by the black hole, its fate is uncertain.

Initially, astronomers thought that the system consisted of a sun-like star circling around a white dwarf.

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How Did The Black Hole Get Such A Close Companion Star?

The star is also travelling at 6.3 million kilometres per hour, or one per cent the speed of light, meaning it takes just 30 minutes to complete an orbit around the black hole. Then, the white dwarf was brought closer to black hole with its powerful gravitational waves.

While analyzing data collected about two other, unrelated X-ray binaries, Bogdanov and co-researchers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory realized the data could be utilized to further study the peculiar X9 system.

One of the reasons for the black hole getting a companion in such proximity could be that the former may have had a huge collision with a massive red star. Astronomers are not sure, but the theories are very interesting. The scientists also found evidence of large amounts of oxygen in the system, an element found in white dwarfs. The binary's orbit would have shrunk with the emission of gravitational waves and eventually the black hole would have started pulling material from the white dwarf. In this scenario, the neutron star spins faster as it pulls material from a companion star via a disk, a process that can decrease the rotational period of the neutron star to a few thousandths of a second.

"We're going to watch this binary closely in the future, since we know little about how such an extreme system should behave", said co-author Vlad Tudor of Curtin University and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, Australia. A study detailing the findings has been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is available online.

At the time, the X9 discovery was unusual because black holes typically were not found in globular star clusters, like X9's.

The light emitted by transitional millisecond pulsars is extremely variable in X-ray and radio wavelengths - characteristics not seen in the X9 system, study team members said.

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