Institute of Astronomy

Black Holes

Black-Hole-Powered Jets Forge Fuel for Star Formation

Published on 14/02/2017 

Composite image showing how powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy in the Phoenix Cluster inflated huge "bubbles" in the hot, ionized gas surrounding the galaxy (the cavities inside the blue region imaged by NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory). Hugging the outside of these bubbles, ALMA discovered an unexpected trove of cold gas, the fuel for star formation (red). The background image is from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (ECO/NAOJ/NRAO) H. Russell, et al.; NASA/ESA Hubble; NASA/CSC/MIT/M. McDonald et al.; B.

Black Hole has major flare

Published on 28/10/2015 
This diagram shows how a shifting feature, called a corona, can create a flare of X-rays around a black hole. The corona (feature represented in purplish colors) gathers inward (left), becoming brighter, before shooting away from the black hole (middle and right). Astronomers don't know why the coronas shift, but they have learned that this process leads to a brightening of X-ray light that can be observed by telescopes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's NuSTAR Sees Rare Blurring of Black Hole Light

Published on 08/08/2014 

A big, spinning black hole blurs light

Giant black holes found lurking in survey data

Published on 10/10/2012 

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have used cutting-edge infrared surveys of the sky to discover a new population of enormous, rapidly growing supermassive black holes in the early Universe. The black holes were previously undetected because they sit cocooned within thick layers of dust. The new study has shown however that they are emitting vast amounts of radiation through violent interactions with their host galaxies. The team will publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

X-ray 'echoes' map a supermassive black hole's environs

Published on 31/05/2012 

An international team of astronomers using data from the European Space Agency's (ESA) XMM-Newton satellite has identified a long-sought X-ray "echo" that promises a new way to probe supersized black holes in distant galaxies.

Most big galaxies host a big central black hole containing millions of times the sun's mass. When matter streams toward one of these supermassive black holes, the galaxy's center lights up, emitting billions of times more energy than the sun. For years, astronomers have been monitoring such "active galactic nuclei" (AGN) to better understand what happens on the brink of a monster black hole.

Chandra Finds Fastest Wind from Stellar-Mass Black Hole

Published on 22/02/2012 

Astronomers (including members of the Institute of Astronomy) using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have clocked the fastest wind blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole yet discovered. This result has important implications for understanding how this type of black hole behaves.

The record-breaking wind is moving about twenty million miles per hour, or about three percent the speed of light. This is nearly ten times faster than had ever been seen from a stellar-mass black hole.

Accretion onto Compact Objects

A major area of research in X-ray astronomy is the accretion of matter on to black holes and neutron stars in the context of AGN and galactic X-ray binaries. Accretion is an energetic process and can give high luminosities.

Forming Supermassive Black Holes

Black holes are among the most fascinating phenomena thought to exist in the Universe. A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, not even light, can normally escape.

X-ray Group

X-ray astronomy research in Cambridge is carried out by an active X-ray Astronomy group whose research focusses on accretion on to compact objects and the physics of clusters of galaxies.