The astronomers found a new way to calculate the size of the black hole supermassive, by studying the diet of this giant object.
Scientists have long noticed a flickering pattern in the brightness of the accretion disk, the material being pulled up by the black hole’s gravity.
However, experts are not sure what causes the flickering pattern.
Now, a team of astrophysicists have determined that the flickering of the accretion disk is related to the mass of the black hole within it.
“We believe that the same technique applies to many things, such as objects smaller than black holes,” said Yue Shen, lead author of the study and astronomer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
To examine the relationship between the size of the supermassive black hole and the light flashing from the disk, the scientists selected 67 supermassive black holes.
Each with a previous estimated mass of between 10,000 and 10 billion times the mass of the Sun.
When the data showed a correlation, the researchers decided to look at a much smaller object with an accretion disk, a white dwarf.
“There is now a correlation between the flickering pattern and the mass of the central accretion object,” said Colin Burke, co-author and graduate student in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
He added that he could use it to predict what a flickering signal from an intermediate black hole might look like.
Reporting from Space.com, Friday (13/8/2021), experts hope to get more information about the black hole’s flickering pattern when the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile launches in 2023.