A black hole bigger than the sun is pulling on the fabric of space and time
- The V404 Cygni black hole has been observed exhibiting one the effects of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
- The black hole’s gravitational pull along with a misaligned companion star is causing V404 Cygnic to drag in space itself.
- V404 Cygnic’s ‘wobble’ is pulling on the fabric of space and time.
Black holes are generally known for pulling in any item that crosses their path using their gravitational force. But, it’s usually only material objects even if that is from nearby stars and planets.
The V404 Cygni black hole, on the other hand, seems to be dragging in space itself according to a team of researchers from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) using the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA).
We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system — it was completely unexpected.
The black hole is around nine times the size of the Sun and around 8,000 lightyears away from the Earth.
Currently, it’s drawing its material from a star that’s around 70% of the Sun’s size and their orbits don’t line up.
That material ends up in a rotating stream of material around the black hole called an accretion disk. The V404 Cygni black hole has a disk 10 million kilometers wide.
As the disk inches closer to the black hole becoming denser and hotter, the black hole and inner parts of the disk start to launch material pieces away from the accretion disk in what scientists call a ‘wobble’.
This ‘wobble’ is supposed to be a steady stream of ejected material but in this case, the black hole is spitting out interjected blobs of plasma.
In V404 Cygni’s case, the excessive speed of the wobble brings Einstein’s general theory of relativity into play which states that massive objects like black holes can distort space and time itself.
This is the only mechanism we can think of that can explain the rapid precession we see in V404 Cygni. You can think of it like the wobble of a spinning top as it slows down, only in this case, the wobble is caused by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Orbit misalignment combined with a rapid wobble causes a ‘frame-dragging’ effect where the material being pushed from the accretion disk can be seen changing direction.
We’ve never seen this effect happening on such short timescales.
Since the V404 Cygni black hole didn’t follow the same rules as conventional blackholes, the ICRAR team has to combine 103 images of the black hole, each around 70 seconds long, in order to observe the phenomenon.