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RE J1034+396 is a supermassive black hole 600 million light-years away from Earth and has a mass of 2 million solar masses. This is the longest duration of a supermassive black hole heartbeat signal ever observed.

Longest-lasting black hole heartbeat discovered

More than ten years ago, astronomers discovered for the first time the X-ray quasi-periodic oscillation signal from a supermassive black hole – the “black hole heartbeat.” More than ten years later, when astronomers had the opportunity to observe the black hole again, they found that the signal was still continuing. This research work was led by the High Energy Astrophysics Group of the National Astronomical Observatory, with collaborators including a research team from Durham University in the UK. The relevant results were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

This special black hole is named RE J1034+396. It is a supermassive black hole 600 million light-years away from the Earth and has a mass of 2 million solar masses. In 2007, scientists used the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite to discover for the first time that the black hole’s X-ray radiation had a periodic oscillation signal of about an hour.

After 2011, because the black hole’s line of sight was too close to the sun, monitoring of its heartbeat signal also stopped.

Until 2018, scientists once again had the opportunity to observe this black hole. The research team applied to the European Space Agency and NASA to use the XMM-Newton satellite, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array satellite and the Swift satellite to conduct joint observations of RE J1034+396, and successfully completed all observations in October 2018 Task. After detailed data analysis, the team finally confirmed that the X-ray oscillation signal of RE J1034+396 still exists and is stronger than 10 years ago! This is the longest duration of a supermassive black hole heartbeat signal ever observed.

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