Science and Health

Black Hole's Extreme Brightness Baffles Scientists

A black hole located in the Pinwheel galaxy is radiating brightness more intense than astronomers thought possible.

Black Hole's Extreme Brightness Baffles Scientists
Gemini Observatory / Lynette Cook

Black holes — they’re one of the universe’s greatest mysteries. And they just got a little more mysterious. (Via NASA)

Scientists discovered there's an incredibly bright black hole about two times as bright as scientists had thought possible. It's tucked away in a galaxy twenty-two million light years from our own. 

See, there are two different types of black holes. The small ones have a mass about the size of the sun, and the big ones clock in about a billion times the sun’s mass. (Via YouTube / SpaceRip

And there’s another distinction, small black holes give off high-energy X-rays, while the larger black holes tend to give off low-energy x-rays. Because this one is so bright, researchers assumed it was a massive black hole with low energy x-rays. (Via YouTube / Vsauce)

But for some reason, it gives only incredibly low energy X-rays but has the brightness of small black hole. Confused? So were the scientists that discovered it.

As one of the researchers told  “As if black holes weren’t extreme enough, this is a really extreme one that is shining as brightly as it possibly can … It’s figured out a way to be more luminous than we thought possible."

They eventually figured out the black hole was in fact a small one but it has a companion star that orbits around it — also known as a Wolf-Rayet system. (Via YouTube / Sky Faction)

With that, they were able to estimate the black hole’s mass was between 20-30 times that of the sun. (Via YouTube / maverick

As for what’s making it so bright, a writer at the Los Angeles Times explains one possibility:The astronomers think that the black hole has a companion star whose stellar wind – gusts of charged particles blowing out from the star’s body and onto the black hole’s accretion disk – could be powering the bright beacon.”

The researchers say the discovery should force them to rethink the way black holes radiate energy. Their findings are published in the journal Nature.