When earthquakes and underwater volcanic eruptions disperse a large volume of water, the waves form tsunamis, wreaking havoc in coastal regions. Scientists have found a similar drumbeat of massive waves forming outside of our planet, deep in space on a much bigger scale, triggered by the ultimate villain — black holes.
Using computer simulation, astrophysicists have shown that tsunami-like structures may form on much bigger scales, from gas escaping the gravitational pull of supermassive black holes. Researchers believe that some black holes might host the largest tsunami-like structures in the universe.
Black holes have always been a centre of intrigue for scientists and non-scientists alike, and with new images of these gravitationally intense objects being captured, research is progressing to explore how the void-like structures function.
Researchers have found a black hole at the centre of almost every galaxy and there are studies underway to assess if somehow these dark masses are powering the galaxies. Our very own Milky Way galaxy also has a black hole that corresponds to the location of Sagittarius A.
How is Space Tsunami formed?
The new simulations are part of research in solving the problem that describes how black holes distort their environments even dozens of light-years away.
According to Nasa, when a black hole with a mass larger than a million Suns feeds off material from a surrounding disk at the centre of a galaxy, the system is called an “active galactic nucleus.” These active galactic nuclei have massive jets at their poles that shine incredibly bright in X-rays.
A black hole is formed from the death of a star with such a high gravitational field that the matter gets squeezed into the small space under it.
Simulations show that just within the distance where the supermassive black hole loses its grip on the surrounding matter, the relatively cool atmosphere of the spinning disk can form waves similar to the surface of the ocean. When interacting with HOT winds (which can be 10 times hotter than the sun) these waves can steepen into spiralling vortex structures that can reach a height of 10 light-years above the disk, more than twice the distance from the Sun to its closest star, which is a little over 4 light-years.
“These clouds are ten times hotter than the surface of the Sun and moving at the speed of the solar wind, so they are rather exotic objects that you would not want an aeroplane to fly through,” said lead author Tim Waters, a postdoctoral researcher.
Computer simulations show that these phenomena would be very large, on the scale of light-years. (Photo: Nasa)
Observing Space Tsunamis
Scientists are now planning to train telescopes and global observatories towards the sky to observe such supermassive black holes. “While no satellite in orbit can currently confirm the new findings,” the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton have detected plasma near active galactic nuclei.
Scientists are hopeful that future missions to space, which include the upcoming IXPE mission launching in November, could help in understanding these massive events. Meanwhile, X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) from Nasa and the Japanese space agency could add to the study. The mission is set to be launched in the coming decade along with ESA’s Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA).
Researchers have recently found evidence of a black hole swallowing a neutron star. (Photo: LIGO)
What is a black hole?
A black hole is formed from the death of a star with such a high gravitational field that the matter gets squeezed into the small space under it, trapping the light of the dead star. The gravity is so strong due to the matter being squeezed into a tiny space. Since no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible.
According to Nasa, black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom. These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its centre.
Scientists believe that these supermassive black holes were made at the same time as the galaxy they are in.
This Article firstly Publish on www.indiatoday.in