HomeAstronomyListen to the 'echoes' of black holes chowing down on their stars

Listen to the ‘echoes’ of black holes chowing down on their stars

Researchers have detected eight new “echoing” black hole systems in the Milky Way, and they sound like passing through an eerie wind tunnel. And intriguingly, the echoes reveal hints about the role of black holes in galaxy evolution. 

The gravitational pull of a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape. Black holes are often surrounded by accumulations of superheated gas and dust known as an accretion disk. When a black hole feeds on this material, it produces bursts of bright X-ray light that bounce and echo off the infalling gas.

Related: Space telescopes spot light ‘echoing’ from behind black hole for first time

Black holes feed on surrounding gas and dust, producing bursts of bright X-ray light that bounce and echo off the infalling material. (Image credit: Aurore Simonnet and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

In a new study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used a tool nicknamed the “Reverberation Machine” to identify eight new echoing black hole binaries, or systems with a star orbiting a black hole. This algorithm analyzes data from NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), a high-time-resolution X-ray telescope aboard the International Space Station

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