Spectacular Rings around a Black Hole Captured: What are they actually?

One of the most mys­te­ri­ous objects for human beings, the con­cept of the black hole has always puz­zled sci­en­tists. Using NASA’s Chan­dra X‑ray Obser­va­to­ry and Neil Gehrels Swift Obser­va­to­ry, astronomers now say that an image of a huge, spec­tac­u­lar set of rings around a black hole has been cap­tured. Part of a bina­ry sys­tem called V404 Cyg­ni, the black hole is locat­ed about 7,800 light years away from Earth. Study­ing the rings of dust and mat­ter around a black hole can help sci­en­tists solve some of the puzzles.

What’s a Black hole?

A black hole is a region of space that has such strong grav­i­ta­tion­al effects that even light can’t escape. A black hole is so dense and com­pact­ed that it forms its own bound­ary in the space, cre­at­ing a bound­ary in which light can­not nec­es­sar­i­ly cross. The bound­ary of a black hole is called event horizon.

Black hole binary system

A black hole bina­ry sys­tem is a bina­ry sys­tem that con­tains a black hole in the cen­ter. Black hole and neu­tron star bina­ries are very com­mon in space because they gen­er­ate mas­sive mag­net­ic fields. When a neu­tron star col­laps­es, it forms a black hole.  Sev­er­al years lat­er, anoth­er com­pan­ion star is formed around the new­ly formed black hole.

Also read: Wow! AI reveals unsus­pect­ed math under­ly­ing search for exoplanets

How do such spectacular rings form around a black hole?

In order to under­stand the for­ma­tion of fine­ly struc­tured rings of gas, sci­en­tists are puz­zled and are seek­ing alter­nate expla­na­tions for for­ma­tion of such rings. The black hole cap­tured in a new image by NASA’s Chan­dra X‑ray Obser­va­to­ry and Neil Gehrels Swift obser­va­to­ry is form­ing a large cloud of gas, detect­ed as ring-like struc­ture around the black hole.

Sci­en­tists are sur­prised to find out that this type of object is still not very well under­stood. There is still a debate about whether this type of object is formed due to the col­lapse of a star or due to the vor­tex-like activ­i­ty of the system.

Sci­en­tists have the­o­rized that there are two dif­fer­ent process­es that cause for­ma­tion of such rings. One process is when mate­r­i­al orbit­ing around a neu­tron star, while the oth­er one occurs in bina­ry sys­tems where gas sur­round­ing an active cen­tral object cre­ates these rings.

Formation of the disks in the image

Astronomers say that the black hole is active­ly pulling mate­r­i­al away from a com­pan­ion star, with about half the mass of the Sun, into a disk around the invis­i­ble object. This mate­r­i­al glows in X‑rays, so astronomers refer to these sys­tems as “X‑ray bina­ries.”

Usefulness of the images in future space exploration

Astronomers say the X‑ray images of the giant rings reveal infor­ma­tion about dust locat­ed in our galaxy. This is by using a sim­i­lar prin­ci­ple to the X‑rays per­formed in doc­tor’s offices and airports.

More­over, the images offer a more detailed view of the for­ma­tion of rings around black holes. This will ben­e­fit a lot in future space exploration.

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