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GRS 1915+105: Erratic Black Hole Regulates Itself
GRS 1915+105


This optical and infrared image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows the crowded field around the micro-quasar GRS 1915+105 (GRS 1915 for short) located near the plane of our Galaxy. The inset shows a close-up of the Chandra image of GRS 1915, one of the brightest X-ray sources in the Milky Way galaxy. This micro-quasar contains a black hole about 14 times the mass of the Sun that is feeding off material from a nearby companion star. As the material swirls toward the black hole, an accretion disk forms. Powerful jets have also been observed in radio images of this system, along with remarkably unpredictable and complicated variability ranging from timescales of seconds to months.

With its High Energy Transmission Grating, Chandra has observed GRS 1915 eleven times since its launch in 1999. These studies reveal that the jet in GRS 1915 may be periodically choked off when a hot wind, seen in X-rays, is driven off the accretion disk around the black hole (view the animation below). The wind is believed to shut down the jet by depriving it of matter that would have otherwise fueled it. Conversely, once the wind dies down, the jet can re-emerge. These results suggest that these black holes have a mechanism for regulating the rate at which they grow. Self-regulation is a common topic when discussing supermassive black holes, but this is the first clear evidence for it in a system containing a stellar-mass black hole.

Fast Facts for GRS 1915+105:
Credit  X-ray (NASA/CXC/Harvard/J.Neilsen); Optical & IR (Palomar DSS2)
Release Date  March 25, 2009
Scale  Full image is 5 degrees across (or 10 Moon diameters wide).
Category  Black Holes, Neutron Stars/X-ray Binaries
Coordinates (J2000)  RA | Dec
Constellation  Aquila
Observation Date  August 14th, 2007
Observation Time  14 hours
Obs. ID  7485
Instrument  ACIS
References Neilsen, J. and Lee, J., 2009 Nature, Accepted
Color Code  X-ray (Purple); Optical & IR (Red, Green, Blue)
IR
Optical
X-ray
Distance Estimate  About 40,000 light years
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