marzo 23, 2023

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La NASA rastrea agujeros negros supermasivos en su ciclo de colisión

El Observatorio de rayos X Chandra de la NASA ha detectado dos pares de agujeros negros supermasivos en ciclos de colisión en galaxias enanas, la primera evidencia de un encuentro tan inminente. Este descubrimiento proporciona información importante sobre el crecimiento de agujeros negros en el universo primitivo.

  • Milky Way, likely formed larger galaxies through collisions in the early Universe.
  • These newly-discovered merging dwarf galaxies can be used as analogs for more distant ones that are too faint to observe.
  • The dwarf galaxies are on collision courses and are found in the galaxy clusters Abell 133 and Abell 1758S.
Chandra Mirabilis Elstir Vinteuil

Evidence for two pairs of supermassive black holes in dwarf galaxies on collision courses has been found with Chandra. The two pairs are shown in X-rays from Chandra and optical light from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope. The merger on the left is in a late stage and was given the single name of Mirabilis. The other merger is in the early stages and the two dwarf galaxies are named Elstir (bottom) and Vinteuil (top). Astronomers think that dwarf galaxies – those about 20 times less massive than the Milky Way – grow through mergers with others. This is an important process for galaxy growth in the early Universe and this discovery provides examples for scientists to study in greater detail. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/M. Micic et al.; Optical: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

A new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has tracked two pairs of supermassive black holes in dwarf galaxies on collision courses. This is the first evidence for such an impending encounter, providing scientists with important information about the growth of black holes in the early Universe.

By definition, dwarf galaxies contain stars with a total mass less than 3 billion Suns — or about 20 times less than the Milky Way. Astronomers have long suspected that dwarf galaxies merge, particularly in the relatively early Universe, in order to grow into the larger galaxies seen today. However, current technology cannot observe the first generation of dwarf galaxy mergers because they are extraordinarily faint at their great distances. Another tactic — looking for dwarf galaxy mergers closer by — had not been successful to date.

El nuevo estudio superó estos desafíos escaneando sistemáticamente las observaciones profundas de rayos X de Chandra y comparándolas con datos infrarrojos del Wide Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) de la NASA y datos ópticos del Telescopio de Canadá, Francia y Hawai (CFHT).

Chandra fue particularmente valioso en este estudio porque el material que rodea a los agujeros negros puede calentarse a millones de grados, emitiendo grandes cantidades de rayos X. El equipo buscó pares de fuentes de rayos X brillantes en galaxias enanas en colisión como evidencia de dos agujeros negros y descubrió dos ejemplos.

Chandra Mirabilis Elstir Vinteuil nombrada

Se ha encontrado evidencia de un par de agujeros negros supermasivos en galaxias enanas en ciclos de colisión con Chandra. La pareja se ve en rayos X de Chandra y luz óptica del Telescopio Canadá-Francia-Hawaii. La fusión de la izquierda se encuentra en una etapa tardía y se le ha dado el nombre individual de Mirabilis. La otra fusión está en sus primeras etapas y las dos galaxias enanas han sido nombradas Elstir (abajo) y Vinteuil (arriba). Los astrónomos creen que las galaxias enanas, esas 20 veces más pequeñas que la Vía Láctea, crecen a través de fusiones con otras. Este es un proceso importante para el crecimiento de las galaxias en el universo primitivo y este descubrimiento proporciona ejemplos para que los científicos los estudien con más detalle. Crédito: Rayos X: NASA/CXC/Univ. Alabama / m. Micic et al.; Óptica: Gemini Observatory International/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

Un par está en el cúmulo de galaxias Abell 133 ubicado a 760 millones de años luz de la Tierra, visto en la imagen compuesta de la izquierda. Datos de rayos X de Chandra en rosa y datos ópticos de CFHT en azul. Este par de galaxias enanas parece estar en las últimas etapas de una fusión, exhibiendo largas colas causadas por los efectos de las mareas de la colisión. Los autores del nuevo estudio lo llamaron Mirabilis, después de que se haya puesto en peligro crítico.[{» attribute=»»>species of hummingbird known for their exceptionally long tails. Only one name was chosen because the merger of two galaxies into one is almost complete. The two Chandra sources show X-rays from material around the black holes in each galaxy.

Chandra Mirabilis

X-ray and optical composite of Mirabilis. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/M. Micic et al.; Optical: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

The other pair was discovered in Abell 1758S, a galaxy cluster about 3.2 billion light-years away. The composite image from Chandra and CFHT is on the right, using the same colors as for Mirabilis. The researchers nicknamed the merging dwarf galaxies “Elstir” and “Vinteuil,” after fictional artists from Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”. Vinteuil is the galaxy on the top and Elstir is the galaxy on the bottom. Both have Chandra sources associated with them, again from X-rays from material around the black holes in each galaxy. The researchers think these two have been caught in the early stages of a merger, causing a bridge of stars and gas to connect the two colliding galaxies from their gravitational interaction.

Chandra Elstir Vinteuil

X-ray and optical composite of Elstir & Vinteuil. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/M. Micic et al.; Optical: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

The details of merging black holes and dwarf galaxies may provide insight to our Milky Way’s own past. Scientists think nearly all galaxies began as dwarf or other types of small galaxies and grew over billions of years through mergers. Follow-up observations of these two systems will allow astronomers to study processes that are crucial for understanding galaxies and their black holes in the earliest stages of the Universe.

Un artículo que describe estos hallazgos fue publicado en una edición reciente de el[{» attribute=»»>Astrophysical Journal.

Reference: “Two Candidates for Dual AGN in Dwarf-Dwarf Galaxy Mergers” by Marko Mićić, Olivia J. Holmes, Brenna N. Wells and Jimmy A. Irwin, 22 February 2023, The Astrophysical Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aca1bb

The authors of the study are Marko Micic, Olivia Holmes, Brenna Wells, and Jimmy Irwin, all from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.

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