Chandra observes the supermassive gravitational lens black hole system | Astronomy
By combining the gravitational lens with the capabilities of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have detected two X-ray emitting objects – two growing supermassive black holes or one such black hole and a jet – in an active galaxy. called MG B2016 + 112. The X-rays detected by Chandra were emitted by MG B2016 + 112 when the Universe was only 2 billion years old.
X-ray emission from internal regions of active galaxies is a key to our understanding of the growth, fusion and accretion processes of supermassive black holes.
However, the study of the formation of galaxies at the beginning of the Universe is limited by the inability of telescopes to detect and resolve the internal regions of these weak objects.
At high energies, physical constraints limit subsequent improvements in telescope resolution.
As a result, present and future missions will not provide sufficient resolution to resolve internal regions of molten galaxies potentially harboring multiple active galactic nuclei.
“Our efforts to see and understand objects so far away in x-rays would be doomed if we didn’t have a natural magnifying glass like this,” said Dr. Dan Schwartz, astronomer at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Using radio observations from MG B2016 + 112, astronomers previously found evidence of a pair of fast-growing supermassive black holes separated by only about 650 light years. The two black hole candidates may have jets.
In the new study, Dr Schwartz and his colleagues concluded that the three X-ray sources of the MG B2016 + 112 system must have resulted from the lens of two separate objects.
These two x-ray emitting objects are probably a pair of growing supermassive black holes or a growing supermassive black hole and its jet.
The estimated separation of these two objects is consistent with the radio work.
“Astronomers have discovered black holes whose mass is billions of times greater than that of our Sun and which formed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, when the Universe had only a few percent of his current age, ”said Dr Cristiana Spingola, astronomer at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics.
“We want to solve the mystery of how these supermassive black holes have grown in mass so quickly. “
The uncertainty in the x-ray position of one of the objects in MG B2016 + 112 is 130 light years in one dimension and 2000 light years in the other perpendicular dimension.
This means that the size of the area where the source is probably located is more than 100 times smaller than the corresponding area for a typical Chandra source without a lens.
Such precision in a position determination is unprecedented in X-ray astronomy for a source at this distance.
“Using the gravitational lens, much longer Chandra observations may be able to distinguish between the black hole pair and the black hole and jet explanations,” Dr. Schwartz said.
“We are also looking forward to applying this technique in the future, especially as surveys from major new optical and radio facilities soon to be commissioned will provide tens of thousands of targets. “
“Without this effect, Chandra should have observed it a few hundred times longer and even then it would not have revealed the complex structures,” said Dr Anna Barnacka, astronomer at the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and at the ‘Jagiellonian University.
The team’s article was published in the Astrophysics Journal.
Daniel Schwartz et al. 2021. Resolution of the complex internal structure of the X-rays of the AGN MG B2016 + 112 with gravitational lens. ApJ 917, 26; doi: 10.3847 / 1538-4357 / ac0909