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Black hole Cygnus X-1 CREDIT: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss (source link:

An ‘unidentified’ object is feeding mass into a pulsating black hole

A DISTANT supermassive black hole is pulsating with bursts of energy every nine hours, the result of an “unidentified” object orbiting its event horizon and feeding mass into it.

Giovani Miniutti, lead astrophysicist on the project researching the phenomenon explained the mysterious object rotating around the black hole.

Eruptions at exact intervals

He said: “The eruptions could be due to the interaction of the disc material with a second body – another black hole or perhaps the remnant of a star previously disrupted by the black hole.

“The X-ray emission comes from material that is being accreted into the black hole and heats up in the process.

“There are various mechanisms in the accretion disc that could give rise to this type of quasi-periodic signal, potentially linked to instabilities in the accretion flow close to the central black hole.”

A new type of black hole

The discovery of this new type of black hole has excited scientists as the exactness of the pulses of light happen every nine hours, and this is a wholly unique and unusual phenomenon.

They have not been able to explain this mystery, but can only say that a strange celestial “object” is feeding mass into the event horizon of the black hole.

The finding was, “completely unexpected,” says astrophysicist Giovanni Miniutti.

He added: “Giant black holes regularly flicker like a candle but the rapid, repeating changes seen in GSN 069 from December onwards are something completely new.”

Quasi-periodic eruptions

The scientists have called what they found, “quasi-periodic eruptions”.

This strange event may not have been detected before, as most black holes are at the core of distant galaxies and are obscured by the teems of stars between Earth based observers and the source.

The fluctuations are not easily explained by current theoretical models.

Mr Miniutti said: “We know of many massive black holes whose brightness rises or decays by very large factors within days or months, while we would expect them to vary at a much slower pace.

“But if some of this variability corresponds to the rise or decay phases of eruptions similar to those discovered in GSN 069, then the fast variability of these systems, which appears currently unfeasible, could naturally be accounted for.

“New data and further studies will tell if this analogy really holds.”

The extremely powerful pulses of high temperature energy erupt from the black hole every nine hours and last for a one hour period.

Distant galaxy

They are so powerful that the light can be detected from earth based telescopes, even though the black hole is in a distant galaxy.

The black hole is at the nucleus of a distant galaxy.

The strange pehomomenon that has scientists baffled is complied in the research paper, “Nine-hour X-ray quasi-periodic eruptions from a low-mass black hole galactic nucleus”, which was published in the scientific journal, Nature.

One of the leading astro-physicists working on the project was Giovanni Miniutti at the Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid, Spain.

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