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Scientists Measure an Object around a Black Hole that's 5 Billion Light-Years from Earth

First Posted: Feb 26, 2016 09:24 AM EST

Scientists have measured an object located around a black hole 5 billion light-years from Earth. The structure shows the capabilities of modern technology, and may allow researchers to better understand the different structures in the universe.

In this latest study, the researchers focused on a structure in the innermost region of a quasar. A quasar emits its energy due to a disk of hot matter orbiting around a supermassive black hole at high speed, and has a mass that's equivalent to a billion stars.

In particular, the researchers have managed to measure to inner edge of the disk of matter orbiting around the quasar Q2237+0305, known as "Einstein Cross," through the study of the changes in the brightness of four different images of said quasar. These images were obtained thanks to the Optical Gravitation Lensing Experiment (OGLE) and Gravitational Lensing International Time Project (GLITP) experiments.

"The breakthrough of this work has been that we've been able to detect a structure in the inner edge of such a small disk at such a great distance, thanks to the gravitational microlensing effect," said Jorge Jimenez Vicente, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It would be the equivalent to detecting an Euro coin at a distance of more than 100,000 kilometers."

In the future, the possibility of detecting high magnification events caused by the gravitational microlensing effect could be applied to thousands of quasars.

The findings are published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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