One day, humanity will have powerful telescopes mounted all over the solar system. They’ll allow each one of us to feast our eyes on every corner of the Universe to see exactly what’s happening. But until that glorious moment, scientists will have to search for answers the hard way.
If you’re not yet convinced that the Universe never runs out of new stuff to show us, consider this: by using data provided by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a team of scientists located a cosmic gas cloud that harbors a gamma-ray ‘heartbeat’ that’s somehow connected to a black hole located much farther away.
The Aquila constellation is the playground
The gas cloud is located in this constellation, which is also home to the α Aql (Altair) star – the brightest star from this constellation and located at a distance of only 17 light-years from Earth.
Perhaps the weirdest part of the gamma-ray is that it pulses in the same rhythm as a black hole located about 100 light-years away. This means that the two cosmic objects are connected in a mysterious way. The black hole is even part of the SS 433 microquasar.
Diego F. Torres, one of the leaders of the study and also an ICREA Professor from the Institute of Space Sciences, declares:
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,
He further adds:
As a consequence, the two jets spiral into the surrounding space, rather than just forming a straight line.
There’s no clue about what’s causing the strong correlation between the black hole and the gas cloud’s ‘heartbeat’, but time can surely solve the puzzle sooner or later.
The study was published in the journal Nature.