NASA Spots Galaxy's Youngest Black Hole

NASA Spots Galaxy's Youngest Black Hole

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The Chandra X-ray Observatory spotted signs of a black hole among the remnants of a rare supernova.

A team of scientists has spotted data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory that suggests a highly distorted, irregular supernova remnant may have, at its heart, the Milky Way galaxy's youngest black hole. The remnant - which is named W49B - is about a thousand years old as seen from Earth, and appears to have exploded not all at once, but by ejecting matter along the poles of the star. When a star runs out of fuel and collapses, it usually explodes symmetrically outwards. "W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy. It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't," said Laura Lopez, who led the study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Once a star has exploded it leaves behind a dense and compact object, usually a neutron star. In this case, however, the Chandra data shows no evidence of a neutron star, which could mean that a black hole has formed. "It's a bit circumstantial, but we have intriguing evidence the W49B supernova also created a black hole," said study co-author Daniel Castro. "If that is the case, we have a rare opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole." That black hole would be the youngest one known in the Milky Way galaxy.

Studying extreme cases of supernova explosion is useful for astronomers, because supernovae are still not well understood. Because W49B is relatively close to earth at 26,000 light years, it's a unique opportunity to study an event that may lead to some new insights on not only black holes, but also into how regular supernovae occur. Because of the jets of material from the star's pole, scientists are comparing W49B to gamma-ray bursts, an event only observed in distant galaxies that scientists believe is linked to black hole formation. Scientists were able to understand how the supernova happened because of the distribution of elements in, and the shape of, the supernova remnant. For example, scientists found iron in only half the remnant, while other elements were more evenly distributed - marking the explosion as asymmetric.

The study will appear in the Astrophysical Journal. Chandra space telescope is managed out of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Smithsonian Observatory in Cambridge, Mass controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Image: NASA

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That's only a thousand lightyears closer than the one in the center of our galaxy.

one in the center of our galaxy tends to be obscured by stuff between us and it. so not really great for observing.

wonder if this star could have been supermassive and died in waves, and the resulting bh that formed was not big enough to blow out the gases that had occurred in its predeath throws. or the bh is just not old enough to have cleared out the neighborhood just by feeding and getting bigger.

It's always funny to me how relative things are. This event actually happened ~27,000 years ago, but we are only just seeing it now (as it appeared ~1,000 years after the actual explosion) due to the amount of time it took the light from the event to reach our telescopes. No real point here, I just find it interesting that something that is 27,000 years old could be referred to as "young", heh.

I wonder what it actually looks like right now if you were seeing it in real time?

What I find most amazing about this is that in an object 26,000 light years away they are able to distinguish between the components of the two sides!

Is it really factual to say this black hole is the youngest only 1000 years young when we don't really know much of anything out there. Just a thought.

Enash Ingan:
Is it really factual to say this black hole is the youngest only 1000 years young when we don't really know much of anything out there. Just a thought.

The youngest in the Milky Way discovered so far is a bit of a lengthy title.

Well today i saw a game come out titled "black hole happens". Well i guess it did happen, perfect timing.

 

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