News / Science & Technology

    Astronomers May Have Seen Birth of Black Hole

    Supernova seen by amateur astronomer in 1979

    Supernova 1979C in a composite image based on observations from NASA Chandra and Spitzer telescopes, and the ESO's Very Large Telescope.
    Supernova 1979C in a composite image based on observations from NASA Chandra and Spitzer telescopes, and the ESO's Very Large Telescope.

    Multimedia

    Art Chimes

    An orbiting NASA telescope has detected evidence of what may be the youngest black hole yet discovered and, at 50 million light years away, it is relatively close to Earth.

    The object resulted from a supernova first observed by an American amateur astronomer just three decades ago.

    The astronomer, a school teacher named Gus Johnson, first observed the massive explosion that was labeled supernova 1979C. Observations in the years since found it was a powerful source of X-rays typical of black holes.

    Black holes are regions that are so massive, their gravitational pull so strong, that not even light can escape. They can form at the end of a star's life. When a star has used up its nuclear fuel, its core can collapse and it becomes a supernova.

    Daniel Patnaude, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led a new study of this presumed black hole, says sometimes the result is a black hole while at other times it's a neutron star.

    "Results such as this," he explained, "might actually be important because we don't know what the dividing line is between those supernova which form black holes, and those which form neutron stars."

    After studying the x-rays from the object, Patnaude says there's no direct evidence that the supernova 1979C actually left behind a black hole. The X-ray signature detected by NASA's orbiting Chandra telescope provides only indirect evidence. But his colleague Avi Loeb says that if it is a black hole, it could provide important evidence of the energy sources that power a supernova. It also provides an opportunity to study some of the most extreme conditions that exist in the universe:

    "Very high densities, close to that of an atomic nucleus," Loeb said. "And we cannot really reproduce these conditions in the laboratory. And so by observing the sky, we're able to learn about environments ... that can only be observed out there, in the universe."

    Loeb and Patnaude will be publishing their findings in the journal "New Astronomy."

    Astronomers have found numerous other black holes throughout the galaxy, but they've never seen one as it formed.  That offers a unique research opportunity to observe the birth and early growth of one of the most mysterious objects in the sky.

    "It's not just that possibly we have found the youngest nearby black hole," said NASA scientist Kimberly Weaver. "But what's really exciting about it is that we know the exact birth date of the black hole. We have found for the first time possibly the true birth date of a black hole."

    And, as astronomers continue to study this object, they expect to gain new insight into how black holes expand by swallowing up nearby material.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora