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.

Astronomers Bring Another Strange Creature to the Pulsar Zoo

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 is a slowly rotating neutron star astronomers recently added to the Pulsar Zoo
This is an artist’s conception of a slowly rotating neutron star

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 shows off

Astronomy News – The human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time’ discovered another neutron star on June 5, 2009, that’s currently keeping astronomers and space scientists busy looking into the unusual properties of this newest member of the pulsar zoo. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra, Swift and Rossi X-ray observatories, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope have been taking a look at this slowly rotating neutron star with an ordinary surface magnetic field as it gives off x-rays and gamma rays. Astronomers think the facts they have collected during their study of neutron star SGR 0418+5729 could indicate the presence of an internal magnetic field much more powerful than the surface magnetic field of this pulsar. This has definite implications in relation to the evolution of the most powerful magnets we have observed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” and astronomers are now delving into the mysteries they see within this neutron star to determine the facts.

Another strange neutron star

Astronomers looking at neutron star SGR 0418+5729 think this pulsar is one of a strange breed of neutron stars they refer too as magnetars, which normally have strong to extreme magnetic fields 20 to 100 times above the average for galactic radio pulsars they have viewed in the universe. What really has astronomers viewing SGR 0418+5729 scratching their heads is the fact that over a 490 day period of observing this pulsar astronomers saw no detectable decrease in this neutron stars rotational rate.

Astronomers think that the lack of rotational slowing of this neutron star could mean that the radiation of low-frequency waves is pretty weak, which leads them to believe the surface magnetic field of this pulsar must be quite a bit less powerful than normal. This conclusion gives astronomers another puzzle to solve, since with this thought astronomers are wondering where the energy for this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions come from.

Does the power and energy creating this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions originate in the twisting and amplifying of this pulsars internal magnetic field in the chaotic interior of this neutron star?

Present theories on this indicate that astronomers believe that if the internal magnetic field becomes ten or more times stronger than the surface magnetic field, the twisting or decay of the magnetic field could lead to the production of steady and bursting x-rays through the heating of the pulsar’s crust or the acceleration of particles in the magnetic field.

The question astronomers want to answer now is how large can the imbalance between the surface and interior magnetic fields be? If further observations indicate that the surface magnetic field limit is pushed too low, then astronomers will have to dig a little deeper into SGR 0418+5729 to find out why this neutron star is rotating slower.

Check out my latest astronomy website at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

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