According to new study an intensely bright X-ray beacon shining in the Andromeda galaxy is actually a signpost for a hungry black hole that is gobbling up matter at a furious pace.
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NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory first discovered the so-called ultraluminous X-ray source (ULX) in late 2009 in the Andromeda galaxy, which is located about 2.5 million light-years away from our own Milky Way galaxy. Stellar black holes are formed by the collapse of massive stars and typically contain up to 10 or 20 times the mass of the sun. According to the new studies, the black hole causing the ULX object in Andromeda is at least 13 times more massive than our sun and formed after a massive star ended its life in a spectacular supernova explosion. This results could help astronomers better understand Ultraluminous X-ray sources and what causes them. Many of these objects are too distant to study, but the relatively close Andromeda galaxy gave scientists an opportunity to analyze the phenomenon in detail, without being obscured by large amounts of interstellar gas and dust. The findings of the new studies show that the ULX spotted in Andromeda is likely caused by a normal stellar black hole that was formed by the collapse of a massive star. This type of behavior is commonly seen with X-ray binaries, where a normal star is in a close orbit around a black hole, that are found in our Milky Way galaxy. By measuring the energy emissions from the ULX, the scientists were able to rule out the possibility that an intermediate-mass black hole was causing the uptick in X-rays that was originally detected. The researchers plan to keep a close eye on the Andromeda galaxy, in hopes that one of the orbiting X-ray observatories will pick up another ULX in our cosmic neighbor. This would provide them with a valuable opportunity to test their theory.