It all began with the discovery of Sagittarius A*, a persistent radio source located at the Galactic Center of the Milky Way that turned out to be a supermassive black hole (SMBH). This discovery was accompanied by the realization that SMBHs exist at the heart of most galaxies, which account for their energetic nature and the hypervelocity jets extending from their center. Since then, scientists have been trying to get a better look at Sag A* and its surroundings to learn more about the role SMBHs play in the formation and evolution of our galaxy.
This has been the goal of the GRAVITY collaboration, an international team of astronomers and astrophysicists that have been studying the core of the Milky Way for the past thirty years. Using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), this team obtained the deepest and sharpest images to date of the region around Sag A*. These observations led to the most precise measurement yet of the black hole’s mass and revealed a never-before-seen star that orbits close to it.
Continue reading “Best Image Ever Taken of Stars Buzzing Around the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole”
For literally being black in the truest sense of the word, black holes are surprisingly easy to spot. Astronomers have spent decades at this point purposely searching for them and have found thousands already, with potentially 100 billion existing in our part of the universe. We are still finding new types and configurations of black holes consistently. Now, new research led by Dr. Karina Voggel of the Strasbourg Observatory found a pair of black holes that hold the new records of being both the closest supermassive black hole pair to Earth and the closest together pair ever seen.
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Patterns in nature often occur in more than one place. Spirals, symmetry, and chaos all impact natural phenomena, from the shape of a shell to the course of a river. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most famous and fundamental shapes from biology also appears in astrophysics. Yes, scientists have found a double-helix structure in the magnetic field of M87. And it looks just like a super enlarged DNA strand.
Continue reading “M87’s Supermassive Black Hole is Spewing out a Spiraling jet of Material”
Since the 1970s, scientists have known that within the cores of most massive galaxies in the Universe, there beats the heart of a Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH). The presence of these giant black holes causes these galaxies to be particularly energetic, to the point where their central regions outshine all the stars in their disks combined – aka. Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN). The Milky Way galaxy has its own SMBH, known as Sagitarrius A*, which has a mass of over 4 million Suns.
For decades, scientists have studied these objects in the hopes of learning more about their role in galactic formation and evolution. However, current research has shown that SMBHs may not be restricted to massive galaxies. In fact, a team of astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory recently discovered a massive black hole at the heart of a dwarf galaxy that orbits the Milky Way (Leo I). This finding could redefine our understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve together.
Continue reading “A Nearby Dwarf Galaxy has a Surprisingly Massive Black Hole in its Heart”
What happens to a star when it strays too close to a monster black hole? Astronomers have wondered why some stars are ripped apart, while others manage to survive a close encounter with a lurking black hole, only a little worse for wear.
To figure out the dynamics of such an event, scientists built a supercomputer simulation and tested it out on eight different types of stars. The stars were sent towards a virtual black hole, 1 million times the mass of the Sun.
What they found was surprising.
Continue reading “NASA Simulation Shows What Happens When Stars Get Too Close to Black Holes”
Astronomers have found a smaller, stellar-mass black hole lurking in a nearby satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. The black hole has been hiding in a star cluster named NGC 1850, which is one of the brightest star clusters in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The black hole is 160,000 light-years away from Earth, and is estimated to be about 11 times the mass of our Sun.
Continue reading “A Black Hole has been Found Lurking Just Outside the Milky Way”
Since the beginning of the Digital Age (ca. the 1970s), theoretical physicists have speculated about the possible connection between information and the physical Universe. Considering that all matter is made up of information that describes the state of a quantum system (aka. quantum information), and genetic information is coded in our DNA, it’s not farfetched at all to think that physical reality can be expressed in terms of data.
This has led to many thought experiments and paradoxes, where researchers have attempted to estimate the information capacity of the cosmos. In a recent study, Dr. Melvin M. Vopson – a Mathematician and Senior Lecturer at Portsmouth University – offered new estimates of how much information is encoded in all the baryonic matter (aka. ordinary or “luminous” matter) in the Universe.
Continue reading “There are 6×10^80 Bits of Information in the Observable Universe”
The first black holes to appear in the universe may have formed from the direct collapse of gas. When they collapsed, they released a flood of radiation, including radio waves. A new study has found that the next generation of massive radio telescopes may be able to detect these bursts, giving precious insights into a critical epoch in the history of the universe.
Continue reading “Next Generation Telescopes Could Detect the Direct Collapse of Enormous Black Holes Near the Beginning of Time”
The tumultuous era of the big bang may have been chaotic enough to flood the universe with primordial black holes. Eventually some of those black holes will find each other and merge, sending out ripples of gravitational waves. A comprehensive search for those gravitational wave signatures hasn’t found anything, putting tight constraints on the abundance of these mysterious objects.
Continue reading “Gravitational-Wave Observatories Should be Able to Detect Primordial Black Hole Mergers, if They’re out There”
A supermassive black hole (SMBH) likely resides at the center of the Milky Way, and in the centers of other galaxies like it. It’s never been seen though. It was discovered by watching a cluster of stars near the galactic center, called S stars.
S stars’ motions indicated the presence of a massive object in the Milky Way’s center and the scientific community mostly agreed that it must be an SMBH. It’s named Sagittarius A*.
But some scientists wonder if it really is a black hole. And one of the S stars could answer that question and a few others about black holes.
Continue reading “One Star Could Answer Many Unsolved Questions About Black Holes”