Astronomers have discovered a unique black hole that can consume gas from a nearby star 10 times faster than previously thought. The black hole, dubbed P13, can absorb stellar gas with a weight equivalent to "100 billion billion hot dogs" every minute.
According to astronomers, as gas falls toward a black hole it gets very hot and bright. In case of P13, which lies on the outskirts of the galaxy NGC7793, about 12 million light years from Earth, astronomers found the black hole to be more luminous than other black holes. A study, related to the discovery, was published in the journal Nature on Thursday.
“It was generally believed the maximum speed at which a black hole could swallow gas and produce light was tightly determined by its size,” Roberto Soria of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, or ICRAR, said in a statement. “So it made sense to assume that P13 was bigger than the ordinary, less bright black holes we see in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.”
When Soria and his team of researchers measured P13's mass, they found that the black hole was actually on the smaller side, suggesting that black holes can consume more gas and produce more light than previously believed.
The astronomers also determined that P13 is at least a million times brighter than the sun while the “donor” star that it rotates around is 20 times heavier than the sun. The astronomers also noticed that one side of the donor star was always brighter than the other because it was illuminated by X-rays coming from near the black hole.
“This allowed us to measure the time it takes for the black hole and the donor star to rotate around each other, which is 64 days, and to model the velocity of the two objects and the shape of the orbit,” Soria said. “From this, we worked out that the black hole must be less than 15 times the mass of our Sun.”