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Astronomers Just Found An Absolutely Gargantuan Black Hole The Mass Of 40 Billion Suns!

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Astronomers Just Found An Absolutely Gargantuan Black Hole The Mass Of 40 Billion Suns
Photo Credit: Getty

Black holes can get pretty big, but there’s a special class that is the biggest of the big, absolute yawning monster black holes. And astronomers seem to have found an absolute specimen, clocking in at 40 billion times the mass of the Sun.

It’s at the centre of a galaxy called Holmberg 15A, a supergiant elliptical galaxy around 700 million light-years away, which in turn sits at the centre of the Abell 85 galaxy cluster.

The object is one of the biggest black holes ever found, and the biggest found by tracking the movement of the stars around it.

Previous calculations based on the dynamics of the galaxy and the cluster had resulted in Holm 15A* mass estimates of up to 310 billion times the mass of the Sun. However, these were all indirect measurements of the black hole. This new research marks the first direct measurement; the paper has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, and awaits peer review.

“We use orbit-based, axisymmetric Schwarzschild models to analyse the stellar kinematics of Holm 15A from new high-resolution, wide-field spectral observations obtained with MUSE at the VLT. We find a supermassive black hole (SMBH) with a mass of (4.0 ± 0.80) × 1010 solar masses at the centre of Holm 15A,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

“This is the most massive black hole with a direct dynamical detection in the local Universe.”

Now, it’s not the most massive black hole ever detected – that would be the quasar TON 618, which apparently has a black hole clocking in at 66 billion times the mass of the Sun, based on indirect measurements.

But Holm 15A* is up there. At 40 billion solar masses, the black hole’s event horizon (also known as the Schwarzschild radius) would be huge, engulfing the orbits of all the planets in the Solar System, and then some.

Quite a lot of some. Pluto is, on average, 39.5 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. The heliopause – where the solar wind is no longer strong enough to push against interstellar space – is thought to be around 123 AU.

At the mass of Holm 15A* as determined by the new paper, its Schwarzschild radius would be around 790 AU.

Try to imagine something that size. The mind reels.

First image of a Black Hole: Source NASA

In fact, it’s even bigger than other measurements taken by the researchers have suggested – which may explain why Holm 15A*’s mass has been difficult to pin down via indirect methods.

“The SMBH of Holm 15A is not only the most massive one to date, it is also four to nine times larger than expected given the galaxy’s bulge stellar mass and the galaxy’s stellar velocity dispersion,” the researchers wrote.

However, it fits the model of a collision between two early-type galaxies with depleted cores. That’s when there are not many stars in the core, based on what is expected from the number of stars in the outer regions of the galaxy.

“We find that black hole masses in cored galaxies, including Holm 15A, scale inversely with the central stellar surface brightness and mass density, respectively,” the researchers wrote.

They intend to continue studying the breath-taking beast, conducting more complex and detailed modelling and comparing their results against their observations, to try to figure out exactly how the black hole formed.

In turn, that can help figure out how often such a merger takes place – and therefore how many such ultra massive black holes are yet to be discovered.

The research has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, and is available on arXiv.

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NASA Just Confirmed There Are Water Plumes Above The Surface Of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

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NASA Just Confirmed There Are Water Plumes Above The Surface of Jupiter's Moon Europa
West Wind NASA

A team led by researchers out of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has confirmed traces of water vapour above the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

And that’s a big deal as the tiny space rock is one of the highest priority targets in NASA’s search for extraterrestrial life, according to the agency.

While scientists have not yet detected liquid water directly, we’ve found the next best thing: water in vapour form,” lead researcher and NASA planetary scientist Lucas Paganini said in a NASA statement.

According to a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, the NASA team discovered enough water vapour being released from Europa to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool within minutes.

But while that sounds like a lot, it was only just enough to be detected from Earth.

Out of 17 observations by the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, which uses a spectrograph to detect the chemical compositions of other planets’ atmospheres by scanning the infrared light they release or absorb, the scientists only spotted water vapour in one.

We suggest that the outgassing of water vapour on Europa occurs at lower levels than previously estimated, with only rare localized events of stronger activity,” Paganini and his team wrote in the paper.

For many years, scientists have suspected that there’s water on Europa’s surface, and several observations appear to back up that suspicion.

More than two decades ago, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft found evidence of an electrically conductive fluid on the moon’s surface. Then, a 2018 analysis of the data found evidence of massive plumes of liquid. Data previously collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope supported the existence of the plumes.

We performed diligent safety checks to remove possible contaminants in ground-based observations,” Goddard planetary scientist Avi Mandell said of the water vapour discovery in the statement. “But, eventually, we’ll have to get closer to Europa to see what’s really going on.”

A mission to do just that is already lined up.

NASA’s upcoming Europa Clipper mission will get a much closer look at the icy moon’s surface as soon as 2023.

The spacecraft will feature a suite of cameras, spectrometers, and a radar to investigate the thickness of Europa’s icy shell during 45 flybys — and perhaps yield further insights into the water vapour above the moon’s surface while it’s there.

This article was originally published by Futurism. Read the original article.

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Space

Three Supermassive Black Holes Are On A Crash Course, NASA Says

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Three Supermassive Black Holes Are About To Collide In Deep Space
Photo Credit: NASA

It’s wild enough when two supermassive black holes collide, but scientists have now spotted an extremely rare triple hole smash-up.

The impending collision is occurring one billion light years away in a system called SDSS J0849+1114, which is a merger of three galaxies, according to NASA.

Scientists led by Ryan Pfeifle, an astrophysicist at George Mason University, identified the epic event while hunting for galaxy mergers, which occur when two galaxies collide and evolve into a unified system. Big galaxies host supermassive black holes in their centres, so a galactic merger may lead to a collision of gigantic black holes, as well.

Three Supermassive Black Holes Are On A Crash Course, NASA Says
Concept art of three black holes. Image: flickr/nasa goddard space flight center. Composition by Jordan Pearson

Supermassive black holes are the largest type of black hole known to scientists, and can grow to be millions or even billions of times as massive as the Sun. When galaxies collide, their central black holes emit radiation as they consume stars, gas, and dust from the merger. (While light cannot escape a black hole once it has passed the event horizon, tidal forces at the outside edge of black holes heat up matter, making it visible to telescopes).

Citizen scientists working on Galaxy Zoo, a project that allows users to help categorize galaxies in sky surveys, classified the system as a galactic merger using optical light images taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) telescope in New Mexico.

Three Supermassive Black Holes Are On A Crash Course, NASA Says
SDSS J0849+1114. IMAGE: X-RAY: NASA/CXC/GEORGE MASON UNIV./R. PFEIFLE ET AL.; OPTICAL: SDSS& NASA/STSCI

Pfeifle’s team then took a closer look at the system across multiple wavelengths, using three NASA telescopes: the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft.

The results revealed that SDSS J0849+1114 contains three supermassive black holes that are about 10,000 light years to 30,000 light years away from each other, according to Space.com.

Pfeifle and his colleagues will publish their findings in a forthcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal (a preprint version is available on arXiv). Further observation of this galactic triplet could shed light on the potential dynamics of mergers between three supermassive black holes, compared to pairs.

According to a theory called the “final parsec problem,” the presence of a third black hole may hasten the merging of the other two. It’s possible that all three could eventually become one hole, but some theories suggest that supermassive black holes can also end up in tight orbits around each other, therefore remaining separate—though close—entities.

We were only looking for pairs of black holes at the time, and yet, through our selection technique, we stumbled upon this amazing system,” said Pfeifle in a statement. “This is the strongest evidence yet found for such a triple system of actively feeding supermassive black holes.”

The video below offers a simulation of this epic trumvirate of black holes colliding.

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Another Mysterious Object Has Just Been Found In Our Solar System

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Another Mysterious Object From Interstellar Space May Have Entered Our Solar System
Photo Credit: NASA

A second interstellar object is zooming through our solar system and this time, astronomers will be ready.

In 2017, scientists marvelled over the first human observations of an interstellar object passing through our solar system. The cigar-shaped asteroid, named ‘Oumuamua, possessed such bizarre traits that some observers speculated it might be an alien spaceship; most astronomers, however, focused on using the narrow timeframe of its passage to make as many observations as possible.

Now astronomers believe a second interstellar object is zooming into our solar system and this time, their telescopes will be ready.

An amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, discovered what is believed to be a comet using his own observatory. The Minor Planet Centre (MPC) confirmed the object, subsequently named C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), and further analysis revealed it to have an unusual trajectory—an eccentric, hyperbolic path that likely means it is not gravitationally tied to our sun.

Like its predecessor ‘Oumuamua, the new interstellar visitor hails from another planetary system and is tearing through the galaxy with incredible velocity (30 kilometres a second).

There are differences between the objects, though. While ‘Oumuamua is an asteroid, the 10 kilometre wide C/2019 appears to have a tail of gas indicative of a comet. This means its composition and origins can be studied in greater detail. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, C/2019 is six times brighter and will be available for observation for far longer.

‘Oumuamua took scientists by surprise and was on its way out of the solar system by the time they discovered it, allowing only a couple weeks of analysis. C/2019, on the other hand, will be visible to astronomers for about six months.

C/2019’s cometary nature and the amount of time scientists will have to study it means we will get an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the condition of an alien planetary system that could be a billion years old. 

Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory, says scientists are so excited about the discovery that many are dropping all other projects to focus on it and commission high-powered telescopes for observation. 

“Here we have something that was born around another star and traveling toward us. It’s the next-best thing to sending a probe to a different solar system,” Hainaut said.

Someday the European Space Agency (ESA) may attempt to land a spacecraft on an interstellar object. In the meantime, scientists plan to learn more about the conditions of other parts of our vast galaxy.

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Alien Civilizations May Have Explored The Galaxy & Visited Earth Already, A New Study Says

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Alien Civilizations May Have Explored The Galaxy & Visited Earth Already, A New Study Says.
Photo Credit: Pexels

Scientists have suggested that there could actually be life out there but we just don’t know about it yet because the extraterrestrials haven’t been to visit us for 10 million years.

A recent study published in The Astronomical Journal has suggested that intelligent alien life is out there but it’s just taking it’s time to explore the galaxy.

The work was created in response to a question known as the Fermi Paradox that asks why humans haven’t been able to detect signs of aliens yet.

The Fermi Paradox — Where Are All The Aliens? (1/2)

The study’s lead author Jonathan Carroll-Nellenback told Business Insider: “If you don’t account for motion of stars when you try to solve this problem, you’re basically left with one of two solutions.

Either nobody leaves their planet, or we are in fact the only technological civilisation in the galaxy.”

The researchers theory revolves around the fact that stars and their planets orbit the centre of the galaxy at different speeds and in different directions.

As this happens the stars and planets occasionally pass each other so the scientists think that aliens could be travelling in destinations that move closer to them.

This kind of travelling would take civilisations longer to spread across stars than previously thought.

Taking this into account, the researchers think that aliens may not have reached us yet or if they did they might have visited Earth long before humans evolved.

They also said that other studies have not properly taken into account how our galaxy moves.

If aliens have to wait long enough until the closest habitable star system moves near them to travel then a civilisation may die out before they visit it.

Carroll-Nellenback told Business Insider: “If long enough is a billion years, well then that’s one solution to the Fermi paradox.

Habitable worlds are so rare that you have to wait longer than any civilisation is expected to last before another one comes in range.”

This suggests that alien visits could just be skipping entire civilisations.

Models made during the study helped the researchers to conclude that the Milky Way could be full of inhabited star systems that we don’t know about.

The study authors also suggested that no traces may have been left by aliens if they visited billions of years ago.

They also considered the possibility that the extraterrestrials might not want to visit a planet that already has life.

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