Washington: Astronomers using NASA`s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made a major breakthrough in explaining why material around the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is extraordinarily faint in X-rays.
New Chandra images of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which is located about 26,000 light-years from Earth, indicate that less than 1 percent of the gas initially within Sgr A*`s gravitational grasp ever reaches the point of no return, also called the event horizon. Instead, much of the gas is ejected before it gets near the event horizon and has a chance to brighten, leading to feeble X-ray emissions.
The researchers used this observation period to capture unusually detailed and sensitive X-ray images and energy signatures of super-heated gas swirling around Sgr A*, whose mass is about 4 million times that of the Sun.
The researchers found that the Chandra data from Sgr A* did not support theoretical models in which the X-rays are emitted from a concentration of smaller stars around the black hole. Instead, the X-ray data show the gas near the black hole likely originates from winds produced by a disk-shaped distribution of young massive stars.
To plunge over the event horizon, material captured by a black hole must lose heat and momentum. The ejection of matter allows this to occur.
The gas available to Sgr A* is very diffuse and super-hot, so it is hard for the black hole to capture and swallow it. The gluttonous black holes that power quasars and produce huge amounts of radiation have gas reservoirs much cooler and denser than that of Sgr A*.
The event horizon of Sgr A* casts a shadow against the glowing matter surrounding the black hole.