STATES CHRONICLE – As scientists are very slowly unraveling the mystery that is outer space, it occasionally turns out that the newest technology they came up with isn’t absolutely necessary sometimes. As a team of researchers only recently discovered, X-ray binaries can be observed with a $20 telescope.
X-ray binaries are, as their name suggests, formed out of two components – one is a black hole or a neutron star with an extremely powerful gravitational pull, while the other is a neighboring star.
As material from the star is pulled into the black hole or the neutron star, that material is heated to very high temperatures just as it is being sucked in. This releases huge amounts of X-rays, as well as very intense light, which, as it turns out, can be spotted with a cheap telescope.
Waking up after 26 years of inactivity, the V404 Cygni black hole was observed by a Japanese team sometime in June 2015. The activity was under the form of a powerful burst, which lasted for more or less two weeks, and was one of the brightest sources of X-rays in the universe.
That fortnight-long burst was so powerful that the team of researchers on Earth was able to observe it using only a 7 inch telescope, which usually goes for about $20 in retail.
Following the outburst, V404 Cygni calmed down again, and the black hole that is 9 times bigger than the sun became dormant again; however, the star which is its X-ray binary partner orbits the black hole every six and a half days.
Being only 7,800 light years away from Earth, V404 Cygni is one of the closest observable black holes, allowing for the scientists to attempt to get a better understanding of what is going on with a black hole.
The Japanese team behind the paper, led by Mariko Kimura of Kyoto University, is very excited about the prospects offered by the new discovery.
As the entire scientific world now knows for the first time that a black hole – the devourer of worlds from which not even light can escape – can be visible with a simple telescope, without any highly specialized telescopes like those that focus on X-rays or gamma rays, it opens up whole new possibilities for research and for the better understanding of the perpetual enigmas that are black holes.
Image source: Wikimedia