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.

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NASA’s Curiosity Almost Ready to Journey to Mars

NASA scientists and engineers preparing Curiosity for her journey to Mars

NASA images

One of the latest envoys of the human journey to the beginning of space and time, the Mars rover Curiosity

Astronomy News – The human journey to the beginning of space and time will get a detailed view of Mars using the Mast Camera on NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, once the spacecraft lands on the surface of Mars, sometime around August 2012, according to the latest estimates by NASA astronomers. Space travel is by necessity extremely well planned and every detail must be worked out to a set time table if Curiosity is to accomplish its mission. All aspects of the mission parameters must be analysed and reanalysed to ensure everything works as expected and the mission sticks to the timetable set by engineers and scientists working to get the spacecraft ready to journey to Mars, sometime between November 25 and December 18, 2011. The Mast Camera on Curiosity is in fact two digital color cameras riding high on the mast, each capable of recording high-definition video at about 8 frames per second, and taking and storing thousands of full-color images of the Red Planet in an eight-gigabyte flash memory. Once they combine the information taken by both cameras scientists and engineers will get detailed 3-D images of Mars as good as or better than any taken before.

This sensor head will play a key role in the mission success of Curiosity

 

Curiosity  will conduct chemical tests of the soil and rocks of Mars

NASA’s Mars Rover will also have onboard a “chemical element reader” to measure the different chemical ingredients making up the soil and rocks of Mars. This particular instrument, along with nine others on board the spacecraft will be looking at the present and past ability habitability of a specific spot on the Red Planet. The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument viewed here was designed by physics professor Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. This instrument uses alpha particles, or helium nuclei, and X-rays to bombard the Martian soil or a rock, which will cause the target to emit its own characteristic alpha particles and X-ray radiation. This emitted radiation will be detected by an X-ray detector inside the sensor head, which will be analysed by Mars scientists to see which elements are within the soil or rock. The exact identification of the elements that make up the Martian soil and rocks will help planet scientists determine the building blocks of the Martian crust, and any possible weathering of the soil or rock since it was formed.

Check out NASA’s Curiosity here

The Mars Science Laboratory is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MarsCuriosity and on Twitter @marscuriosity . A full listing of JPL social media accounts is at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/social .

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

 

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion

NASA Selects AL-Razaq Computing Services

Astronomy News – Astronomy is a business and astronomers need help to get the job done. The acquistion and business support services needed to assist the Marshall Space Flight Center, Michoud Assembly Facility, NASA Enterprise Application Competency Center, National Space Science Technology Center and other facilities managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center has been awarded to AL-Razaq Computing Services of Houston.

The services provided by AL-Razaq Computing Services will include operational and administrative support to the Office of Procurement, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and other Marshall Space Flight Center offices and directorates. The contract awarded to AL-Razaq Computing Services will start April 1 and continue for one year, with an option for four one-year extensions of services.

Check out the newest astronomy site on the block at http://astronomytonight.yolasite.com/.

Read about NASA’s Messenger spacecraft and its mission to Mercury

Have you heard about the recent meteorite that exploded near the Ural Mountains

Read about the supernova astronomers are studying looking for a black hole they think was created during the explosion