Hubble Finds Youngest, Nearby Black Hole Candidate

Characteristics of 30-year old supernova remnant SN 1979C are consistent with predicted theory on birth of black hole or possibly a rapidly spinning neutron star

•If SN 1979C does indeed contain a black hole, it will give astronomers a chance to learn more about which stars make black holes and which create neutron stars. Image: NASA/Chandra
Far away in galaxy M100 we search for black holes. If SN 1979C does indeed contain a black hole, it will give astronomers a chance to learn more about which stars make black holes and which create neutron stars.
Image: NASA/Chandra

Space news (December 11, 2015) – 50 million light-years from Earth, in galaxy M100 –

One of the most enigmatic cosmic objects discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, black holes continue to entrance and mystify both astronomers studying them and common people trying to imagine the possibility of such monsters existing. Black holes are also one of the most difficult celestial objects to detect since not even light rays can escape from the strength of their gravitational-embrace, once they travel beyond the imaginary point-of-no-return astronomers call the “event horizon” of a black hole.

Astronomers working with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, after analysis of additional data provided by NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer, the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft, and German’s ROSAT Observatory, believe they have evidence to suggest 30-year old supernova remnant SN 1979C could be a black hole.

NASA and German ROSAT Observatory scans the x-ray sky.
The ROSAT Observatory scans the x-ray sky looking for supernovas that could have given birth to a black hole. Image: NASA.

Supernova remnant SN 1979C shined X-rays steadily during constant observation from 1995 to 2007. This suggests to astronomers either a black hole eating material left over from the supernova or a hidden binary companion feeding hot material to the monster hidden within 

“If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed,” said Daniel Patnaude of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. who led the study.

Astronomers have detected new black holes that existed during the ancient past through gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) associated with them. SN 1979C is listed in a class of supernovae not expected to produce GRBs, which theory predicts could be the most common way to make a black hole.   

This may be the first time the common way of making a black hole has been observed,” said co-author Abraham Loeb, also of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “However, it is very difficult to detect this type of black hole birth because decades of X-ray observations are needed to make the case.

The idea SN 1979C is a young, recently-formed black hole made from the remnants of a star with 20 times the mass of Sol, that went supernova some thirty Earth-years ago, is consistent with present theory. In 2005, a theory was put forth claiming the bright source of X-rays detected steaming from the supernova remnant is powered by a jet emanating from the monster that’s unable to penetrate the thick hydrogen envelope surrounding it.

Astronomers think there could be one other possibility for the identity of SN 1979C. It could be a rapidly spinning neutron star, with an extremely powerful wind of high energy particles. Present theory predicts this would produce the bright X-ray emissions detected during 12 years of constant observation. 

If this is true, this would make this supernova remnant the youngest known example of a celestial object called a pulsar wind nebula. The Crab Nebula is the best-known example of a bright pulsar wind nebula, but we would have to go back over 900 years to view it as a 30-year old. SN 1979C is a lot younger, which is a great opportunity to study one of the most enigmatic, yet difficult to detect celestial objects viewed during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

It’s very rewarding to see how the commitment of some of the most advanced telescopes in space, like Chandra, can help complete the story,” said Jon Morse, head of the Astrophysics Division at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Jon Morse is a pioneer, leader and hero of the human journey to the beginning of space and time
Jon Morse is a pioneer, leader and hero of the human journey to the beginning of space and time. Image: Space.com.

Study continues

Astronomers will now continue to study SN 1979C, to see if they can determine its identity. No matter it’s true identity or nature, we can expect this celestial object to be one of the most studied examples of a young supernova remnant during recent times. 

You can learn more about black holes here.

Discover the journey of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory here.

Learn more about NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center here.

Learn about the mission of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics here.

Take NASA’s journey through space history here.

Learn about NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer here.

Take the journey of the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton spacecraft here.

Discover German’s ROSAT Observatory here.

Learn about hydrocarbon dunes detected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Saturn’s frozen moon Titan.

Read about the Monster of the Milky Way as it comes to life.

Learn how astronomers study a galactic nursery using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble Uncovers Clues to the Formation and Evolution of the Milky Way

In the embers of once vibrant white dwarf stars in the central bulge of the galaxy

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected for the first time a population of white dwarfs embedded in the hub of our Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble images are the deepest, most detailed study of the galaxy's central bulge of stars. The smoldering remnants of once-vibrant stars can yield clues to our galaxy's early construction stages that happened long before Earth and our sun formed. [Left] — This is a ground-based view of the Milky Way’s central bulge, seen in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Giant dust clouds block most of the starlight coming from the galactic center. Hubble, however, peered through a region (marked by the arrow) called the Sagittarius Window, which offers a keyhole view into the galaxy's hub. [Upper right] — This is a small section of Hubble's view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away. [Lower right] — Hubble uncovered extremely faint and hot white dwarfs. This is a sample of 4 out of the 70 brightest white dwarfs spied by Hubble in the Milky Way's bulge. Astronomers picked them out based on their faintness, blue-white color, and motion relative to our sun. The numbers in the inset images correspond to the white dwarfs' location in the larger Hubble view. Image: NASA/ESA
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected for the first time a population of white dwarfs embedded in the hub of our Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble images are the deepest, most detailed study of the galaxy’s central bulge of stars. The smoldering remnants of once-vibrant stars can yield clues to our galaxy’s early construction stages that happened long before Earth and our sun formed.
[Left] — This is a ground-based view of the Milky Way’s central bulge, seen in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Giant dust clouds block most of the starlight coming from the galactic center. Hubble, however, peered through a region (marked by the arrow) called the Sagittarius Window, which offers a keyhole view into the galaxy’s hub.
[Upper right] — This is a small section of Hubble’s view of the dense collection of stars crammed together in the galactic bulge. The region surveyed is part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) field and is located 26,000 light-years away.
[Lower right] — Hubble uncovered extremely faint and hot white dwarfs. This is a sample of 4 out of the 70 brightest white dwarfs spied by Hubble in the Milky Way’s bulge. Astronomers picked them out based on their faintness, blue-white color, and motion relative to our sun. The numbers in the inset images correspond to the white dwarfs’ location in the larger Hubble view.
Image: NASA/ESA

Space news (December 08, 2015) – Looking through a cosmic keyhole 26,000 light-years away in Sagittarius

Astronomers trying to understand the formation and evolution of the Milky Way by studying the first stars to be born in the galaxy have a problem. The stars within the central bulge of the galaxy formed first according to stellar theory. Unfortunately, the light from these suns is blocked by massive clouds of gas and dust, which makes studying their role in the formation and evolution of the Milky Way difficult. 

In order to view the central bulge of the galaxy, astronomers looked through a small keyhole in the sky, called the Sagittarius Window. Making it possible to study the formation and evolution of the Milky Way and galaxies as a whole by comparison. A view giving us a look into the very heart of the galaxy and the blueprints nature uses to construct these island universes.

Current astronomical theory believes the central bulge of the Milky Way grew first, followed by the relatively quick birth of the stars making up the rest of the galaxy. Peering deep into the heart of the central bulge, astronomers have discovered a family of 70 ancient white dwarf stars, they believe are the smoldering remnants of once-vibrant suns that inhabited the core long ago. Ancient stars scientists are studying to uncover clues to the processes that formed the Milky Way and by relation the family of galaxies in the cosmos. Marking the deepest, most detailed archeological study of the central bulge of the Milky Way and by extension its formation and evolution.

These ancient white dwarf stars hold the keys to opening the door to better understanding the history of the Milky Way. To gaining knowledge and facts concerning 12 billion-year-old suns that existed when the galaxy was young. Knowledge and facts giving astronomers clues to the early years and evolution of the Milky Way and the billions of island universes in the cosmos.

This is a close up of ancient white dwarfs inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way.
This is a close up of ancient white dwarfs inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way. Image NASA/ESA

It is important to observe the Milky Way’s bulge because it is the only bulge we can study in detail,” explained Annalisa Calamida of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, the science paper’s lead author. “You can see bulges in distant galaxies, but you cannot resolve the very faint stars, such as the white dwarfs. The Milky Way’s bulge includes almost a quarter of the galaxy’s stellar mass. Characterizing the properties of the bulge stars can then provide important information to understanding the formation of the entire Milky Way galaxy and that of similar, more distant galaxies.”

The Hubble survey also found slightly more low-mass stars in the bulge, compared to those in the galaxy’s disk population. This result suggests that the environment in the bulge may have been different than the one in the disk, resulting in a different star-formation mechanism,” Calamida said.

Astronomers have only looked at about 70 of the hottest white dwarfs Hubble can pick out of at least 70 thousand stars in the small area of the bulge of the Milky Way they looked at. White dwarf stars detected by making extremely precise measurements of the motion of over 240,000 stars they detected over a decade of viewing as part of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Precise measurements astronomers used to determine which stars are disk stars or suns inhabiting the bulge of our galaxy. Stars that inhabit the bulge move at a different rate than suns in the disk of the galaxy as compared to our Sun. Extremely hot white dwarfs are also slightly bluer relative to stars like our own sun and they become fainter and cooler as they age. Facts that allowed Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to pick out 70 of the brightest white dwarf stars inhabiting the bulge of the Milky Way.

Comparing the positions of the stars from now and 10 years ago we were able to measure accurate motions of the stars,” said Kailash Sahu of STScI, and the study’s leader. “The motions allowed us to tell if they were disk stars, bulge stars, or halo stars.”

These 70 white dwarfs represent the peak of the iceberg,” Sahu said. “We estimate that the total number of white dwarfs is about 100,000 in this tiny Hubble view of the bulge. Future telescopes such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will allow us to count almost all of the stars in the bulge down to the faintest ones, which today’s telescopes, even Hubble, cannot see.”

The team’s going back to work

This team of intrepid astronomers and scientists now plan to increase the sample size of the white dwarfs currently being studied. This will be done by analyzing additional parts of the SWEEPS field of study, which they hope to use to get more precise measurements of the exact age of the bulge of the Milky Way. They’ll also take a look at the possibility the star formation processes used to create the bulge billions of years ago, could be slightly different than current star formation processes at work in the younger disk of the galaxy.

You can learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope here.

Read and learn about white dwarf stars here.

Read about the discoveries of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) here.

Learn more about the formation and evolution of the Milky Way here.

Read about the discoveries of the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS) here.

Read about five Explorer Program missions recently selected by NASA.

Learn more about galactic nurseries where stars are born.

Read about the first Earth-sized exoplanet found orbiting in the habitable zone of its home star.

U.S. Congress Recognizes Right of U.S. Citizens to Own Asteroid Resources

By passing historic legislation H.R. 2262 into law

A complex asteroid mining module is required to build possible future space settlements. This mining module is fully automated and can mine and process materials ranging from metal to fiberglass to volatiles
A complex asteroid mining module is required to build possible future space settlements. This mining module is fully automated and can mine and process materials ranging from metal to fiberglass to volatiles

Space news (November 17, 2015) – U.S. House of Congress –

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law on May 20, 1862, this spurred growth in the search for gold and timber to fuel the expanding economy of the nation and opened up new frontiers for continued growth and prosperity for all. 

Now, all Americans can take part in the future asteroid bonanza on the space frontier in the decades ahead. 

On November 10, 2015, U.S. Congress passed into law bill H.R. 2262, legislation recognizing the right of Americans to own the resources contained within asteroids they claim as property. 

One 300 meter asteroid can contain more minerals than have been mined on Earth, so far.
One 300 meter asteroid can contain more minerals than have been mined on Earth, so far.

We are proud to have the support of Congress. Throughout history, governments have spurred growth in new frontiers by instituting sensible legislation. Long ago, The Homestead Act of 1862 advocated for the search for gold and timber, and today, H.R. 2262 fuels a new economy that will open many avenues for the continual growth and prosperity of humanity. This off-planet economy will forever change our lives for the better here on Earth,” said Chris Lewicki, President, and Chief Engineer, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources is grateful for the leadership shown by Congress in crafting this legislation and looks forward to President Obama signing the language into law. We applaud the members of Congress who have led this effort and actively sought stakeholder input to ensure a vibrant economy and prosperous way of life now and for centuries to come. Patty Murray (D-WA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have been unwavering in their support and leadership for the growth of the U.S. economy into the Solar System. Their forward-looking stance and active role in enabling the development of an economically and strategically valuable new marketplace will ensure our country’s continued leadership in space,” said Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources, Inc.

Planetary Resources is one of a new breed of private space adventures planning on mining an asteroid close to Earth in the next decade.
Planetary Resources is one of a new breed of private space adventures planning on mining an asteroid close to Earth in the next decade.

In the words of Senator Murray, “I am glad that we’ve taken this important step forward to update our federal policies to make sure they work for innovative businesses creating jobs in Washington state. Washington state leads in so many ways, and I’m proud that local businesses are once again at the forefront of new industries that will help our economy continue to grow.”

Congressman Posey said, “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is a landmark for American leadership in space exploration. Recognizing basic legal protections in space will help pave the way for exciting future commercial space endeavors. Asteroids and other objects in space are excellent potential sources of rare minerals and other resources that can be used to manufacture a wide range of products here on Earth and to support future space exploration missions. Americans willing to invest in space mining operations need legal certainty that they can keep the fruits of their labor, and this bill provides that certainty.”

Congressman Kilmer said, “The commercial space industry in Washington state is leading the way in developing the cutting edge technology necessary to support human space exploration. The U. S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act will give these ventures the framework they need to continue to innovate and to keep the United States at the head of this growing, global industry. I congratulate the Senate for taking this step, and I look forward to the House quickly sending this bill to President Obama’s desk.”

Eric Anderson, Co-Founder, and Co-Chairman, Planetary Resources, Inc., said, “Many years from now, we will view this pivotal moment in time as a major step toward humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. This legislation establishes the same supportive framework that created the great economies of history, and it will foster the sustained development of space.”

Time to cash in those old stocks and bonds from the bygone era of Earth exploitation. The future is asteroids! 

Private firms around the United States and the world are currently making plans to take part in the future space bonanza. Can you afford to sit idly on the sidelines, while the future and opportunity pass you by? 

Take action! Join Planetary Resources or one of the few private firms planning on mining an asteroid in the decades ahead. 

Get your little piece of the future, in the form of a portion of the resources and monetary rewards of being part of the coming space bonanza.

People are currently getting in on the ground floor of this adventure and opportunity to take part in the future of mankind. 

The future is before us! Waiting to greet us into a sustainable way of living among the stars.  

Join the human journey to the beginning of space and time by investing in the future of mankind.

Read about NASA’s Explorer Program, which allows for relatively low-cost exploration of the solar system and cosmos.

Learn more about private firm Planetary Resources Inc. and their plans to mine an asteroid in the future.

Read about the search for the missing link in black hole evolution.

Learn more about mining as asteroid here.

Check out and join private firm Planetary Resources Inc. in their plans to cash in on the asteroid mining bonanza here.

Learn more about historic legislation H.R. 2262 here.

Astronomers Detect Swirls in Disk of Dust Surrounding Young Suns

In this computer generated simulation the spot X marks the location astronomers believe we might find a planet nearby. The two spiral arms are possibly produced by the movement of the unseen planet through the surrounding hot dust and gas. Image NASA/ESA/ESO/M
In this computer generated simulation, the spot X marks the location astronomers believe we might find a planet nearby. The two spiral arms are possibly produced by the movement of the unseen planet through the surrounding hot dust and gas. Image NASA/ESA/ESO/M

They believe could be evidence for young, massive planets orbiting new stars

Space news (November 23, 2015) –

Astronomers working with ground-based telescopes are proposing massive swirl designs viewed encircling newborn stars could betray the presence of infant planets. Opening the door to a new method of possibly detecting exoplanets orbiting stars and offering a look at the processes forming planets in the cosmos.

The human journey to the beginning of space and time has detected over 1,000 exoplanets around distant stars during the last few years. Detecting infant planets being formed around a nearby, young star enveloped by a circumstellar disk of gas and dust is a different story. Presently, astronomers can’t detect nascent planets embedded inside a vast, pancaked-shaped circumstellar disk. 

Those infant planets being formed around young stars could be detected based on the changes they make in the circumstellar disk is a new concept. A new concept based on computer modeling of the birth and evolution of massive disks of dust and gas surrounding young stars. Computer modeling conducted by two NASA Hubble Fellows, Zhaohuan Zhu of Princeton University and Ruobing Dong of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

It’s difficult to see suspected planets inside a bright disk surrounding a young star. Based on this study, we are convinced that planets can gravitationally excite structures in the disk. So if you can identify features in a disk and convince yourself those features are created by an underlying planet that you cannot see, this would be a smoking gun of forming planets,” Dong said.

This new planet-finding technique could be significant in the desire to find young, newly-formed planets and understanding the processes the cosmos uses to make them. This approach could be the piece of the puzzle astronomers have been looking for to help unwrap the mystery surrounding the formation of planets. A mystery planetary scientists have been studying in depth for years and one they would love to understand more about.

Computer models show gaps and rings in circumstellar disks could be unseen planets embedded in massive, light-absorbing clouds of gas and dust. Gaps and rings possibly swept clean by the gravity field of a planet or planets, which makes it difficult to determine their number, individual mass, or location.  

Astronomers using ground-based telescopes have imaged two massive spiral arms surrounding two newly-formed stars called SAO 205462 and MWC 758. They have also detected similar looking spiral features in nearby stars they’re currently studying to try to gain a better understanding of exactly what’s going on beneath the veil of gas and dust surrounding these distant celestial bodies. 

How they are created has been a big mystery until now.  Scientists had a hard time explaining these features,” Dong said. If the disks were very massive, they would have enough self-gravity to become unstable and set up wave-like patterns. But the disks around SAO 206462 and MWC 758 are probably just a few percent of the central star’s mass and therefore are not gravitationally unstable.

Additional computer models suggest the dynamics of disks surrounding newly-formed suns are altered by the radiation of a star as it moves through a disk with embedded planets. Computer modeling closely resembling the spiral structures imaged by astronomers points to mutual gravitational fields of newly-formed stars and surrounding disks interacting. This interaction creates regions surrounding newly-formed stars where the density of gas and dust increases until they form spiral waves. Spiral waves that are spread out over these regions by the varying rates of rotation of the disk around the newly-formed star. 

Simulations also suggest that these spiral arms have rich information about the unseen planet, revealing not only its position but also its mass,” Zhu said. The simulations show that if there were no planet present, the disk would look smooth. To make the grand-scale spiral arms seen in the SAO 206462 and MWC 758 systems, the unseen planet would have to be bulky, at least 10 times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

The latest observations of newly-formed sun MWC 758, taken with the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, show a protoplanetary disk with two spiral arms extending over 10 billion miles into space from the star. Image NASA/ESA/ESO/M
The latest observations of newly-formed sun MWC 758, taken with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, show a protoplanetary disk with two spiral arms extending over 10 billion miles into space from the star. Image NASA/ESA/ESO/M

There are many theories about how planets form but very little work based on direct observational evidence confirming these theories,” Dong said. “If you see signs of a planet in a disk right now, it tells you when, where, and how planets form.”

Study continues

Astronomers and planetary scientists will now continue their studies of newly-formed star systems and the processes the cosmos uses to create them. They’re planning on using current ground and space-based telescopes to study young star systems. In the years ahead they also use the James Webb Space Telescope to lift the veil of mystery surrounding the birth and evolution of stars in the universe.  

Read more about the things astronomers have discovered about the planet-forming region around stars.

Learn more about the regions around young stars.

Learn about the things astronomers have discovered around newly-formed main sequence stars like our Sol.

Learn more about planet formation here.

Discover the James Webb Space Telescope here.

Take a tour of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope here.