Getting ready for some hard-X-ray observing…

As we reported earlier this month, we’ve been awarded 75 ksec (or just under 21 hours) of Suzaku time. Suzaku is a Japanese-led space telescope that observes hard X-rays. Hard X-rays have the handy property of penetrating just about everything, even the most messy gas and dust that tends to collect in the centres of galaxies and around supermassive black holes. We’re pointing Suzaku and its instruments at IC 2497, the massive galaxy next to Hanny’s Voorwerp.  

There are two possible outcomes for this observation that we can think of: if we do detect some hard X-ray photons, then we know that there is still an active supermassive black hole in IC 2497 that’s illuminating the Voorwerp. It’s merely hidden behind a tremendous amount of gas and dust. If on the other hand we don’t pick up anything, then we can be sure that the black hole has stopped feeding, i.e. it has genuinely shut down. 

Usually, telescopes like Suzaku call for new observations every year or so to fill the next year. Our observations could therefore have been scheduled any time between later this spring and spring 2010. So we were extremely excited that our observations have been scheduled for the week of April 13th! That’s amazingly lucky! Barring telescope technical trouble or targets of opportunity (Look! A bright new unknown kind of supernova!), we’ll get our data sometime in April or May. Fingers crossed…

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14 responses to “Getting ready for some hard-X-ray observing…”

  1. Hanny says :

    Thanks for blogging this Kevin, very exciting indeed! 😉

  2. Half65 says :

    Great news.
    Finger crossed.

  3. adam primus says :

    That’s great news; I wonder, from an astronomer’s viewpoint, which would be the most interesting result of the observations, i.e. whether it is still active, or has “switched off”… the latter seems the more intriguing option to me, but the Suzaku will – hopefully – answer that and pose further questions…

  4. Kevin says :

    Personally, I think the `switched off’ result would be more exciting, but let’s wait till we get the data.

  5. Joseph K. H. Cheng says :

    Great…great…great news! Stop press message :- “The ZOO gets priority observing time on SUZAKU ! ” With all the technical problems in Hubble am I correct in saying that SUZAKU is our first important and possibly decisive look at the Voorwerp ? Thanks a lot for the exciting update, Kevin.

    JKHC.

  6. Marcy9 says :

    Good news, indeed

  7. GwydionM says :

    A hard X-ray is good to find!

  8. wanderson says :

    Congratulations! Nice to see good science emrging from this work.

  9. zeus2007 says :

    What about the Chandra telescope, isn’t it X-rays too? I like the Hubble but yeah I think it’s getting old, everything has to pass away some day…it’ll be sad though for the Hubble, one of the greatest inventions of mankind. This is amazing news!

  10. Douglas Watts says :

    Zeus2007:

    All observations are valuable. All telescopes are valuable. There is no such thing as an “obsolete” telescope. Or an “obsolete” human eye.

  11. Alice says :

    I wonder what we’ll do if there is no, and never was a, quasar in IC 2497 at all . . .

  12. weezerd says :

    Nice one Kevin! This early observation will keep you on your marks!

  13. Kevin says :

    Alice, we know there MUST have been a quasar in IC 2497 ~100,000 years ago because the Voorwerp is seeing it.

  14. BAZ PEARCE says :

    MY MONEY SAYS THE SMBH IS STILL FEEDING, AND THE VOORWERP IS ONLY REFLECTING A PARTIAL IMAGE OF WHATEVER IS GOING ON IN THERE.
    IF SO IMAGING SHOULD PRODUCE STUNNING RESULTS.

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