Hubble Data Analysis: BLACK HOLES

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Do supermassive black holes fit in a single reference frame for all observers?

Foreword by National Lab Day Scientist, Marshall Barnes, R&D Eng


Black holes have been the subject of movies, books and TV programs for a couple of decades now and yet there is much to be discovered by them. As a professional researcher into the nature of time, I have looked at the temporal effects that black holes are said to possess and in doing so, in 2003, I discovered a something new about supermassive black holes - they are so big they won't fit into a single reference frame for all observers. In other words, from some angles what you are looking at when you observe a black hole is actually slices of the black hole at different times. Something I call temporal multiplicity.


Eric Tortorella wanted to do a project analyzing at data from the Hubble Space Telescope so a suggested to his teacher a project that he analyze data from the Hubble and the Chandra X-Ray Telescope and consider ways in which black holes can be seen with temporal multiplicity. I had him do some reading and then he answered some questions and did some calculations. What he came up with is below in green...

Image: Massive Black Holes in Galaxies NGC 3377, NGC 3379 and NGC 4486b


Project of Eric Tortorella

of East Hampton High School,

    East Hampton, New York 


The purpose of this exercise is to use information from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Telescope to discover something new about the relationship between the behavior of black holes that we can see and their relative size in spacetime reference frames that we might miss unless we look closely and analyze the data.


Useful Terms:
The following terms need to be understood in order to successfully understand the data from this exercise -
1. Space-time. Spacetime refers to the fabric of the universe in what is called a 4 dimensional continuum. Spacetime is made up of 3 dimensions of space and 1 dimension of time.
2. C or the Speed of Light. The speed of light equals a velocity of 186,000 miles per second, approximately, and is always the same in a vacuum. If light travels through something else, usually refered to as a "medium", then it can be slower or sometimes (on a very small scale called quantum it can be a very, very small fraction faster. Physicists use the letter "C" or "c" to indicate the speed of light in short hand. That's what the c in Einstien's famous E=mc^2 equation means - Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.
3. A Light Year. A light year is how far light travels in a year at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. That distance is just under 10 trillion kilometers or 6 trillion miles.
4. Galactic or Relativistic Jet. The term used to describe the bursts of energy and gases that can explode from the center of a black hole. These jets usually come out of the top and bottom of the black hole and perpendicular (or at right angles) to the edge of the accretion disc.
5. Accretion Disc. The name for the disc of gas and matter that revolves around the black hole. The disc is very visible whereas the black hole itself is not.
6. Reference Frame (or frame of reference). For this purpose a reference frame  will mean a position (whether in motion or not) from where observations can be made, also known as an observational frame of reference.
Data Bases:

Chandra's observation of black holes

 XTE J1550-564: 
Chandra Tracks Evolution Of X-Ray Jets
Black Hole Data

XTE J1550-564 Black Hole, 4 year period observations

1. Make a note of the data from the observations by the Chandra X-Ray telescope of black hole XTE J1550-564:
1. How many solar masses is it?
 9.6 ± 1.2
2. How many light years from Earth is it?
1.2- 17,000 light years 
3. Is it observed face on, sideways or titled with respect to how it is observed from Earth.
1.3- Tilted  
4. Have jets been observed coming from it?
1.4- Yes  
5. If so when?
1.5- June 2000- August 2000 -- March 2002 – June 2002  
6. If so, were the jet observations simultaneous?
1.6- No  

2. By using the data collected, determine the order in which the jets from XTE J1550-564 actually occurred:
a. At the same time
b. The one closest to the Earth first.
c. The one furthest from the Earth first.
d. Impossible to tell.
d. Impossible to tell
Correct. Due to the lack of information we can only know that they didn't happen as observed because of the tilt of the black hole and the lapse in time between the first one and the second. The highest probability is that the occurred somewhat close together but the first jet observed as not necessarily the first jet ejected.  

Based upon the data and conclusions derived from your analysis of XTE J1550-564, extrapolate what that means in as far as the ability to determine the same kind of information from supermassive black holes such as  and if they will fit into all reference frames that will allow for the simultaneously observation of their behavior from an angle less or more than 90 degrees from the accretion disc.

Because of the tilt of a black hole, it is difficult to tell which jets from the accretion disk occur first.
If a supermassive black hole is 500 light lights across and 100,000 light years from Earth but titled toward a spacecraft approaching Earth from 2,000 light years on the other side of the black hole, and two events occur - one on the highest and one on the lowest edge of the accretion disc, with the lowest edge being tilted toward the spacecraft, what does it mean if the following observations are made

1. Earth telescopes detect the event at the top of the accretion disc first and the lowest second, while the spacecraft detects bottom event first and the top second.

2. Earth telescopes detect an event at the bottom of the accretion disc first and then the one at the top, while the spacecraft detects the one at the bottom first and the top second.

3. How many years before or after, would the Earth telescopes detect these events as compared to the spacecraft?

For each question, it might help if you use symbols to show the relationship to the black hole that the Earth and the spacecraft have, based on the tilt of the accretion disc, and then draw each event as described. You will then be able to visualize how long it would take the light of each event to reach the Earth and the spacecraft, like this


where the ">" is the ship, the "/" are the edges of the accretion disc on opposite sides of the black hole - @, and the "o" represents the planet Earth. Based on the speed of light and the distances that each telescope is from the black hole, as well as the direction of the tilt, you should be able to figure out which event on the accretion disc happens first.  



Eric's answers:

1. Bottom event occurred first

2. Bottom event occurred first

3. Approximately 98,000 years after the spaceship observes the event.  


"Over the past few decades, there has been an increase in the amount of research conducted in black hole research. In my project, I focused on black holes tilted toward or away from earth or a specific object. Because of the tilt of the black hole, it is difficult to tell which jet from the accretion disk occurred first. Based on the speed of light and the distances that the event was observed from the earth, I was able to determine the order. 

For example, if there was a black hole tilted toward a spacecraft and two events occurred, one on the highest and one on the lowest edge of the accretion disc, with the lowest edge being tilted toward the spacecraft, you could determine which event occurred first. By simply knowing the distances of the object from the black hole, one could discover the order of events."


- Eric Tortorella