A team of international scientists led by researchers from Japan’s Kyoto University has published a paper titled "Repetitive Patterns in Rapid Optical Variations in the nearby Black-Hole Binary V404 Cygni" detailing how nearby, active black holes can be fully observed with a 20 cm home-use telescope.
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In the study published in the journal Nature, the scientists say what is most needed to observe the phenomena is the outbursts of visible light emanating from gases around the black holes. This visible light has been tallied to correspond with optical rays and X-rays.
According to lead author Mariko Kimura, a master's student at Kyoto University, "We now know that we can make observations based on optical rays – visible light, in other words – and that black holes can be observed without high-spec X-ray or gamma-ray telescopes."
According to astronomers, binaries of certain black holes go through outbursts once in several years. During these outbursts, large amounts of energy which also include X-rays emerge from materials that get sucked into the black hole.
Since gas from a companion star gets sucked in a spiral pattern into a black hole in a process that forms an accretion disk, the X-rays produced from within the accretion disks can often be observed.
One of the black hole binaries closest to Earth, the V404 Cygni, resurrected on June 15, 2015 during such outbursts after 26 years of being dormant. The Kyoto University team led the other scientists to obtain immense data from V404 Cygni, finding recurring patterns of timescales running from several minutes to a few hours – and these correlated to X-ray optical fluctuation patterns.
The Kyoto team collaborated with astronomers from the national space agency JAXA, national laboratory RIKEN, and the Hiroshima University to analyze the optical and X-ray data emerging from within the accretion disk surrounding the black hole. The X-ray heats up the outer parts of the disk, thus emitting optical rays that become visible to human eyes.
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"Stars can only be observed after dark, and there are only so many hours each night, but by making observations from different locations around the globe we're able to take more comprehensive data," said co-author Daisaku Nogami. "We're very pleased that our international observation network was able to come together to document this rare event."