In March 2018 astronomers watched a massive black hole surge in brightness. Then over the following year, its ring of light dimmed to near-invisibility before regaining its former strength. The potential culprit? The black hole swallowing an entire star.Continue reading “A ring of high-energy particles surrounding a black hole suddenly disappeared”
Gravitational wave astronomy has changed the way we view the cosmos. In only a few years we have observed the collisions of black holes and neutron stars, confirming our theoretical understanding of these strange objects. But as gravitational wave astronomy matures, it will allow us to probe the very nature of space and time itself. While that day is a long way off, it hasn’t stopped the theory folks from dreaming up new discoveries. For example, how it might look if a black hole and a wormhole interact.Continue reading “A Black Hole Popping Out of a Traversable Wormhole Should Give Off a Very Specific Signal in Gravitational Waves”
A comet-eating black hole the size of a planet? It’s possible. And if there’s one out there in the distant Solar System, a pair of researchers think they know how to find it.
If they do, we might finally put the Planet 9 issue to rest.Continue reading “If Planet 9 is a Primordial Black Hole, We Might Be Able to See Flares When it Consumes Comets”
In the 1960s, astronomers began theorizing that there might be black holes in the Universe that are so massive – supermassive black holes (SMBHs) – they could power the nuclei of active galaxies (aka. quasars). A decade later, astronomers discovered that an SMBH existed at the center of the Milky Way (Sagitarrius A*); and by the 1990s, it became clear that most large galaxies in the Universe are likely to have one.
Since that time, astronomers have been hunting for the largest SMBH they can find, in the hopes that can see just how massive these things get! And thanks to new research led by astronomers from the Australian National University, the latest undisputed heavy-weight contender has been found! With roughly 34 billion times the mass of our Sun, this SMBH (J2157) is the fastest-growing black hole and largest quasar observed to date.Continue reading “There’s a Black Hole With 34 Billion Times the Mass of the Sun, Eating Roughly a Star Every Day”
Black hole merger events are some of the most energetic, fearsomely energetic events in all the cosmos. When black holes merge, they’re entirely invisible, the only evidence of the cataclysm some faint whisper of gravitational waves. Until now.Continue reading “It might just be possible to see a light flash too when black holes merge”
A black hole as a source of energy?
We know black holes as powerful singularities, regions in space time where gravity is so overwhelming that nothing—not even light itself—can escape.
About 50 years ago, British physicist Roger Penrose proposed that black holes could be a source of energy. Now, researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have demonstrated that it may be possible.Continue reading “How an Advanced Civilization Could Exploit a Black Hole for Nearly Limitless Energy”
Black holes are the ultimate limit of gravitational collapse. Bring enough mass into a small enough volume, and its own weight will squeeze the mass into oblivion. All that remains is a warped pocket of space that it can trap anything that strays too close, even light.Continue reading “Astronomers Just Detected Either the Least Massive Black Hole, or a Strange and Massive Neutron Star”
Where do they come from, those beguiling singularities that flummox astrophysicists—and the rest of us. Sure, we understand the processes behind stellar mass black holes, and how they form from the gravitational collapse of a star.
But what about the staggering behemoths at the center of galaxies, those supermassive black holes (SMBH) that can grow to be billions of times more massive than our Sun?
How do they get so big?Continue reading “Supermassive Black Holes Grew by Consuming Gas and Entire Stars”
It’s a truism to point out that modern humans have only been around for the blink of an eye, relative to the age of the Universe. But the Universe was an active place long before we were around to observe all of that activity. And about 3.5 million years ago, it’s possible—if only remotely—that our ancient ancestors noticed something change in the night sky.
Would it have stirred something inside them? Impossible to know.Continue reading “About 3.5 Million Years Ago, a Stream of Gas Outside the Milky Way Would Have Lit Up the Night Sky”
One of the most pressing questions in astronomy concerns black holes. We know that massive stars that explode as supernovae can leave stellar mass black holes as remnants. And astrophysicists understand that process. But what about the supermassive black holes (SMBHs) like Sagittarius A-star (Sgr A*,) at the heart of the Milky Way?
SMBHs can have a billion solar masses. How do they get so big?Continue reading “New Simulations Show How Black Holes Grow, Through Mergers and Accretion”