Situated approximately 3.5 billion light-years from our planet, OJ 287 is a distant galaxy, also known as a “blazar.” It has an active nucleus and a stream of high-energy particles emerging from its center. At its core is a supermassive black hole that is around 18 billion times as extensive as our host star. It’s the biggest ever spotted whereas the black hole at the center of our galaxy is almost 40 Solar masses.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope ceased its actions a long time ago. Its collected data, however, continues to support researchers’ work. During its 16 years mission, the telescope detected some intriguing cosmic features, including the center of OJ 287. There, it spotted a supermassive black hole that frequently moves through its accretion disk. And each time it did such a thing, it resulted in a flash that is brighter than all the stars in our galaxy combined.
The Nature of a Supermassive Black Hole and Its Companion Examined
For many years, scientists tried to understand the binary nature of OJ 287 and its companion. They’ve been aware that the smaller black hole collapses through the giant disk of dust and gas encircling its more prominent companion.
Those collapses develop expanding bubbles of hot has that pass away from the disk and are very bright (Eddington flares). The smaller black hole also has an irregular orbit. So, it shifts position with every 12-year orbit and is bent relative to the accretion disk.
Moreover, when the supermassive black hole collapses within the disk, that’s when it creates flares at irregular periods during its cycle. As long as scientists have been aware of such things, they tried to develop a model that could precisely forecast the happening of those flares. Only in 2018, a team of scientists succeeded in developing the most accurate model that could predict a flash in less than four hours.