picture of the day
Illustration of the imagined effects of a black hole hidden in the
center of the “accretion disk” GRO J1655.
Credit: A. Hobart, CXC
A Flickering "Black Hole"
Nov 15, 2007
Astronomers claim that a
celestial object called GRO J1655 hides a black hole. But
why does its surrounding plasma flicker 450 times a second?
Because the black hole is "rotating very rapidly,"
Astronomers tell us that the “microquasar” at the center of
GRO J1655 is seven times as massive as our Sun. It cannot be
seen because it is a black hole formed from the collapse of
an old star, now sucking in matter from surrounding space.
Guided by nothing more than Einstein's view of gravity, the
astronomers “know” it is there because of the energetic
radiation and jets issuing from a very small region of
To derive the mass of a black hole, mathematicians divide
the apparent energy from it by the puny gravitational force,
which is almost zero compared to any other force, arriving
at something just this side of an “infinite concentration”
of mass. The escape velocity from such an object is greater
than the speed of light. Therefore, neither particles nor
radiation of any kind (including light) can be released into
surrounding space. The black hole itself is invisible.
The calculations ignore all limitations posed by well-tested
laws of physics. And when theorists discovered jets of
charged particles speeding away from such objects, something
was obviously wrong. So they adjusted their abstractions. A
black hole has a theoretical boundary known as an "event
horizon", within which gravity forever holds all matter and
energy prisoner. It was suggested that just outside this
boundary gravity could act on a rotating “accretion disk” to
miraculously accelerate material away from the black
hole (as “illustrated” in the drawing above). By this
sleight of hand, the improbable jets—in transparent
contradiction of gravitational dogma—became more “evidence”
for the hidden black holes.
With a blank check in hand, the pure mathematicians have had
a field day.
GRO J1655-40 has two powerful jets of plasma rushing away
from its poles at nearly the speed of light. The
illustration above is said to depict both a polar jet and
the surrounding accretion disk. But how this curious
reversal of gravity’s influence actually works is not yet
clear, the theorists say.
Recent investigation has also found that GRO J1655-40
displays an unexpected flickering some 450 times a second.
How would the mathematicians respond to something never
envisioned by a model that worked only with mass, density,
and rotation? Very simply. The hidden black hole must be
rotating at an amazing 27,000 rpm, somehow creating an
energetic “lighthouse” beam of radiation.
Though no one can really explain any of this, the authors of
the Astronomy Picture of the Day are not dissuaded. “What
physical mechanisms actually cause the flickering -- and a
slower quasi-periodic oscillation (QPO) – in accretion disks
surrounding black holes and neutron stars remains a topic of
Are readers confused? Or are astronomers themselves missing
something? Plasma experts knowledgeable in the role of
electric currents in space continue to contrast the
astronomers’ abstractions with observational and
experimental evidence. Across vast distances in space,
plasmas carry electric currents, and at those focal points
where currents pinch down to form stars, infrequent but
catastrophic releases of energy may occur.
The electrical theorists say that the most fundamental
mistake of astronomers and cosmologists is their habit of
seeing celestial objects in isolation. It is this habit that
drives them to conjure exotic forces and events limited
to the vicinity of the objects themselves, in order to
explain such phenomena as plasma “flickering.”
As noted by plasma scientist Anthony Peratt, in electric
discharges flickering electromagnetic radiation is
commonplace. “The flickering comes from electrical changes
at the observed load or radiative source, such as the
formation of instabilities or virtual anodes or cathodes in
charged particle beams that are orders of magnitude smaller
than the supply.” (I.e., in space the electrical supply
comes from regions incomparably larger than the visible
phenomenon, which is incapable of explaining itself.)
So if a flickering is interpreted by a distant observer to
be both the “source and supply,” Peratt notes, the results
will not only be bizarre, they will lack a basis in any
Sadly, the convoluted dogma of black holes fits this
See also “The
Madness of Black Holes”
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