NKU professor credited with groundbreaking black hole research

The research focuses on one a massive black hole nearly 5.1 billion light years away.
NKU professor involved with global black hole research publications
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:02 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Research conducted by Dr. Dirk Grupe, NKU associate professor and chair of the department of physics, geology and engineering technology has been accepted in two academic publications for research done on what was thought to be a massive black hole.

The research shows that one of the universe’s most massive black holes, located at the center of galaxy OJ 287 nearly 5.1 billion light years away, is the size of 100 million solar masses instead of the previously believed 10 billion solar masses.

The international research group, led by Gupe and Stefanie Komossa from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, has been studying OJ 287 since 2015.

The team was able to test crucial binary model predictions using multiple observing tools including the Effelsberg radio telescope and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.

Collaborations also involved institutions from China, Chile, Canada and Spain. For the first time, an independent black hole mass determination of the system was performed and the amount of matter in a disk surrounding the black hole could be estimated.

The results show that an exceptionally massive black hole exceeding 10 billion solar masses is no longer needed. Instead, the results favor models with a smaller black hole mass of 100 million solar masses.

Several outstanding mysteries, including the apparent absence of the latest big outburst of OJ 287 (which has now been identified) and the much discussed emission mechanism during the main outbursts, can be solved this way.

The findings of this research have strong implications for the theoretical modeling of supermassive black hole binary systems and their evolution.

There are also implications for understanding the physics of accretion and jet launching near supermassive black holes, for future pulsar timing vs. space-based gravitational wave detection from this system, and a direct spatial resolution of this system with the Event Horizon Telescope or the future SKA Observatory.

“When you have the masses - that you know the mass ratio now, you can also make predictions on what kind of frequency for gravitational waves you would expect,” added Grupe.

The findings are presented in two papers published: the Monthly Notices of The Royal Astronomical Society and the Astrophysical Journal.

And having Grupe on staff at NKU provides opportunities for current and future students.

“We give students an opportunity here (at NKU). We give students an opportunity to work in research, to work on satellite data, and be involved in projects like this,” Grupe added, also noting that no current students have been involved with this research yet.

For more information on the research and its findings, click here.

To learn more about the NKU department of physics, geology and engineering technology, visit its website.

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