black holes

Science & Technology

Scientists observe consumption of a star by a supermassive black hole for the first time

The consumption of stars by supermassive black holes which lie at the centre of most galaxies is believed to be a fairly common event in the Universe, but astronomers have been unable to observe such proceedings unfold. That was until recently. It was revealed today that scientists at  Astrophysical Institute of Andalusia in Granada, Spain have used two specialised telescopes to observe the violent event in its full glory.  

Science & Technology

The Science Dispatches week ending 03/06/18: Dinosaurs for sale, intermediate black holes and clues to Pluto’s origins

The science dispatches for the week ending 03/05/18 collecting the most interesting and important science news for the final week in May including potential signs of intermediate black holes, an exciting breakthrough in artificial nerves, interesting developments in Pluto’s origins and how to own your own Allosaurus. 

Science & Technology

New research suggests the Milky Way may be host to multiple ‘wandering’ supermassive black holes

Astronomers have long since concluded that the active galactic nuclei of most galaxies such as our own Milky Way play host to supermassive black holes of masses in excess of millions of times that of the Sun. Now new research implies that our own galaxy may well also contain up to as many as twelve ‘wandering’ supermassive black holes in addition to the central SMBH.

Science & Technology

Hawking radiation. How black holes evaporate.

One of the great ironies of Hawking’s death was that fact that one of his most revolutionary contributions to science suggested that nothing in our universe can last forever. In the formulation of Hawking radiation, he showed us the even, cosmological giants, black-holes, may eventually ebb away. In considering Hawking’s genius we will be exposed to a greater, far crueller irony, the reason that one of the greatest minds in this era of science will never hold its greatest accolade.

Chris Packham, associate professor of physics and astronomy at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has collaborated on a new study that expands the scientific community's understanding of black holes in our galaxy and the magnetic fields that surround them. "Dr. Packham's collaborative work on this study is a great example of the innovative research happening now in physics at UTSA. I'm excited to see what new research will result from these findings," said George Perry, dean of the UTSA College of Sciences and Semmes Foundation Distinguished University Chair in Neurobiology. Packham and astronomers lead from the University of Florida observed the magnetic field of a black hole within our own galaxy from multiple wavelengths for the first time. The results, which were a collective effort among several researchers, are deeply enlightening about some of the most mysterious objects in space. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so strongly that even light cannot escape its grasp. Black holes usually form when a massive star explodes and the remnant core collapses under the force of intense gravity. As an example, if a star around 3 times more massive than our own Sun became a black hole, it would be roughly the size of San Antonio. The black hole Packham and his collaborators featured in their study, which was recently published in Science, contains about 10 times the mass of our own sun and is known as V404 Cygni. "The Earth, like many planets and stars, has a magnetic field that sprouts out of the North Pole, circles the planet and goes back into the South Pole. It exists because the Earth has a hot, liquid iron rich core," said Packham. "That flow creates electric currents that create a magnetic field. A black hole has a magnetic field as it was created from the remnant of a star after the explosion." As matter is broken down around a black hole, jets of electrons are launched by the magnetic field from either pole of the black hole at almost the speed of light. Astronomers have long been flummoxed by these jets. These new and unique observations of the jets and estimates of magnetic field of V404 Cygni involved studying the body at several different wavelengths. These tests allowed the group to gain a much clearer understanding of the strength of its magnetic field. They discovered that magnetic fields are much weaker than previously understood, a puzzling finding that calls into question previous models of black hole components. The research shows a deep need for continued studies on some of the most mysterious entities in space. "We need to understand black holes in general," Packham said. "If we go back to the very earliest point in our universe, just after the big bang, there seems to have always been a strong correlation between black holes and galaxies. It seems that the birth and evolution of black holes and galaxies, our cosmic island, are intimately linked. Our results are surprising and one that we're still trying to puzzle out." Read more at:
Science & Technology

New research sheds light on the properties of black holes

Without a doubt, black holes are the most mysterious objects ever discovered by astronomers mostly due to the fact that unlike other astronomical bodies, black holes cannot be observed directly, their mass is so great and contained within such a small radius that even light cannot travel fast enough to escape their gravity. Cosmologists and astronomers have found ways around this problem, including the observation of matter falling into black holes. It is this method that has allowed researchers at several institutions across the US to learn more about the composition of black holes and to discover that their properties may well defy previous expectations.