‘Heartbeat’ detected coming from a cosmic gas cloud

Cosmic gas cloud in the constellation Aquila has been found to emit a pulsating beat.

Scientists have found a pulsating beat – likened to a “heartbeat” – coming from a cosmic gas cloud. Interestingly, this gamma-ray heartbeat is in sync with a neighboring black hole. While this means that the two are connected in some way, it is unclear how. Science Daily has commented on this mystery, claiming that “just how the black hole powers the cloud’s gamma-ray heartbeat over a distance of about 100 light years remains enigmatic”.

The Independent has explained that the heartbeat was found after a team of scientists looked through over 10 years of data from NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray space telescope.

The research team had been examining SS 433: a system about 15,000 light years away from us. This system has been found to include a black hole and a giant star around 30 times the mass of the sun. Science Daily further claimed that the black hole and the giant star orbit each other every 13 days “while the black hole sucks matter from the giant star”.

Source: Unilad / NASA

The research team was led by Jian Li and Professor Diego F. Torres who have explained the following regarding their discoveries:

This material accumulates in an accretion disc before falling into the black hole, like water in the whirl above the drain of a bath tub. However, a part of that matter does not fall down the drain but shoots out at high speed in two narrow jets in opposite directions above and below the rotating accretion disk – Jian Li

The accretion disc does not lie exactly in the plane of the orbit of the two objects. It precesses, or sways, like a spinning top that has been set up slanted on a table. As a consequence, the two jets spiral into the surrounding space, rather than just forming a straight line. – Diego F. Torres

It is interesting that these jets sway for over 162 days with the exact same rhythm which has been detected in the cosmic gas cloud’s gamma ray signal. Thus, this indicates a connection as the cloud is sending out an emission powered by these jets.

Li has stated his amazement at this discovery as he has further stated that “finding such an unambiguous connection via timing, about 100 light years away from the micro quasar, not even along the direction of the jets is as unexpected as amazing“.

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