Relevant research results were published in the Monthly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society on July 11. The mass of this mysterious black hole is about 250 million times that of the sun. What puzzles astronomers, however, is that it is surrounded by an accretion disk, which contains debris and gas, and quickly rages around the edge of the hole.
The black hole at the center of NGC 3147 is about 130 million light-years away from Earth. In this inactive galaxy, the black hole at the core has no gravitational pull to continuously absorb material from the surrounding galaxies, which means that the black hole is "starving". These black holes usually do not form accretion disks. But the accretion disk accelerates at more than 10% of the speed of light around this particular black hole.
"This is the same type of accretion disk that we have seen in celestial bodies with brightness of 1,000 or even 100,000 times," lead author Stefano Bianchi said at a news conference. "Current model predictions for very dim active galaxies are clearly unsuccessful."
Using special instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers were able to observe the material around the black hole. "It's a very interesting peek at an accretion disk very close to a black hole, so close that the intensity of gravity is affecting the photons we see," Bianchi explained.
Researchers intend to use the Hubble Telescope to look for more galaxies in the future, hoping to find similar accretion disks.