In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and the U. R. Rao Satellite Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Bengaluru, have successfully detected polarized emissions from a black hole source beyond our Milky Way Galaxy. This achievement, made possible through X-ray polarimetry, sheds light on the accreting nature of black hole sources and opens a new avenue for understanding astrophysical phenomena.
IIT Guwahati and ISRO Researchers Uncover X-Ray Polarization:
The focus of the study was the binary star system Large Magellanic Cloud X-3 (LMC X3), situated in a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, nearly 200,000 light-years away. LMC X3 comprises a black hole and a ‘normal’ star, with the latter being significantly hotter, larger, and more massive than the Sun. Despite being discovered in 1971, the polarization properties of X-rays emitted by such highly energetic objects had remained elusive.
Professor Santabrata Das from the Department of Physics at IIT Guwahati highlighted the significance of the research, stating, “X-ray polarimetry is a unique observational technique to identify where radiation comes from near black holes.” LMC X-3 emits X-rays that are 10,000 times more powerful than those from the Sun. By studying the polarization characteristics of these X-rays, researchers can gain insights into how matter is drawn toward black holes under intense gravitational forces.
The team utilized The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying the polarization of X-rays from celestial objects. Additionally, they employed the broad-band coverage of the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) Mission and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) Mission to constrain the spin of LMC X-3.
Dr. Anuj Nandi, a scientist from the U. R. Rao Satellite Centre, ISRO, Bangalore, explained, “Intense gravitational fields can cause the emitted light from black holes to become polarized.” The observations suggest that LMC X-3 likely harbors a black hole with a low rotation rate, surrounded by a slim disc structure giving rise to polarized emissions.
The study, funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Department of Science and Technology, India, has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The research team, led by Prof. Santabrata Das and Dr. Anuj Nandi, included research scholars Mr. Seshadri Majumder (IIT Guwahati) and Mr. Ankur Kushwaha (URSC, Bangalore).
These findings represent a significant step forward in the understanding of astrophysical black hole sources, providing a new avenue for investigation. The researchers’ use of advanced technologies and collaborative efforts between IIT Guwahati and ISRO showcases the prowess of Indian scientific endeavors in the field of space research.
About IIT Guwahati:
Established in 1994, the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati has become a leading institution in engineering, science, healthcare, management, design, and humanities disciplines. The institute, currently celebrating its 25th year, has consistently maintained a prominent position in national and international rankings, emphasizing its commitment to research, technology, and innovation.
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