Monster black holes lurking in the centres of galaxies are hungrier than previously thought, Melbourne scientists have discovered.
Astrophysicist Alister Graham and his team at Swinburne University have revealed that these so-called supermassive black holes consume a greater portion of their galaxy’s mass the bigger the galaxy gets. The discovery overturns the longstanding belief that these supermassive black holes are always a constant 0.2 per cent of the mass of all the other stars in their galaxy.
It seems counterintuitive, but restricting the amount of light that reaches a telescope can sharpen up its output. The technique will be used on NASA’s successor to the Hubble Space Telescope: the James Webb Space Telescope. But it is already proving its worth here on Earth.
Images of the binary star known as Wolf-Rayet 104 (WR104), published in 2008 by Peter Tuthill of the University of Sydney, reveal the power of the new technique, which is known as aperture masking. WR104 should be difficult to see because it is in a deep cloud of dust, but Peter and his colleagues used aperture masking when observing the star with the Keck telescope in Hawai’i. The mask leads to sharper images because it cuts down complexity and makes the data easier to process and rid of error. Continue reading Keck telescope dons a mask→