For the first time, a massive black hole showed off its ornaments - a series of star clusters arranged like a star-shaped “Chain of Pearls”.
Using infrared telescopes at the Keck Observatory atop the Hawaiian Mauna Kea volcano, astronomers were able to break through the light-blocking dust surrounding a supermassive black hole in the center of the NGC2110 galaxy 120 million light-years from Earth.
Photograph of NGC2110 taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
When the image of the center of the galaxy was magnified, astronomer Jeremy Mold and graduate student Mark Durré from the center of Swinburne Astrophysics and Supercomputers, Australia, noticed four hidden star clusters wrapped around a black hole.
"These star clusters were not visible before, as they are hidden by clouds of dust around the black hole. Since they are very small, they can only be observed using infrared radiation that is able to penetrate the clouds," said Durré.
The locations of four star clusters around a black hole in the center of NGC2110.
"Our galaxy: the Milky Way has a black hole, the weight of which is four million times the weight of our Sun. So NGC2110 has a black hole 100 times more massive."
The black hole located at the center of NGC2110 is very active, pulling in matter and spewing intense radiation and gas jets. Although black holes have a bad reputation due to the absorption of all life, in this case, as computer modeling shows, the gravitational tides of the black hole are the key to the formation of star clusters. The stellar winds from the hundreds of stars contained in each cluster also probably feed a black hole.
"After many millions of years, these clusters will be broken by the same tidal forces and gradually settle closer to the center of the black hole," Durré added.