Washington, D.C. – NASA says the hungriest of black holes are thought to gobble up so much surrounding material they put an end to the life of their host galaxy.
This feasting process is so intense that it creates a highly energetic object called a quasar – one of the brightest objects in the universe – as the spinning matter is sucked into the black hole’s belly. Now, researchers have found a galaxy that is surviving the black hole’s ravenous forces by continuing to birth new stars – about 100 Sun-sized stars a year.
Pasadena, CA – When you look up at the night sky, how do you know whether the specks of light that you see are bright and far away, or relatively faint and close by? One way to find out is to compare how much light the object actually emits with how bright it appears. The difference between its true luminosity and its apparent brightness reveals an object’s distance from the observer.
Measuring the luminosity of a celestial object is challenging, especially with black holes, which don’t emit light. But the supermassive black holes that lie at the center of most galaxies provide a loophole: They often pull lots of matter around them, forming hot disks that can radiate brightly.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of unlocking the beauty and mystery of space by unveiling a stunning new portrait of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.
In this Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because it resembles an undersea world.
Greenbelt, MD – Astronomers have found the best evidence for the perpetrator of a cosmic homicide: a black hole of an elusive class known as “intermediate-mass,” which betrayed its existence by tearing apart a wayward star that passed too close.
Weighing in at about 50,000 times the mass of our Sun, the black hole is smaller than the supermassive black holes (at millions or billions of solar masses) that lie at the cores of large galaxies, but larger than stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of a massive star.
Washington, D.C. – The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, studies the universe with infrared light. That’s a range of wavelengths on the infrared spectrum, from those measuring about 700 nanometers, too small to see with the naked eye, to about 1 millimeter, which is about the size of the head of a pin.
Other observatories, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory, also studied infrared light. But each telescope observes different wavelengths of infrared light, filling in puzzle pieces that are essential to learning what makes the universe tick.
Washington, D.C. – NASA has captured an extremely crisp infrared image of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Spanning a distance of more than 600 light-years, this panorama reveals details within the dense swirls of gas and dust in high resolution, opening the door to future research into how massive stars are forming and what’s feeding the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s core.
Among the features coming into focus are the jutting curves of the Arches Cluster containing the densest concentration of stars in our galaxy, as well as the Quintuplet Cluster with stars a million times brighter than our Sun. Our galaxy’s black hole takes shape with a glimpse of the fiery-looking ring of gas surrounding it.
Pasadena, CA – NASA says our Milky Way galaxy has an elegant spiral shape with long arms filled with stars, but exactly how it took this form has long puzzled scientists. New observations of another galaxy are shedding light on how spiral-shaped galaxies like our own get their iconic shape.
Magnetic fields play a strong role in shaping these galaxies, according to research from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA. Scientists measured magnetic fields along the spiral arms of the galaxy called NGC 1068, or M77. The fields are shown as streamlines that closely follow the circling arms.
Washington, D.C. – Even celestial objects can seem like they’re playing tricks. In a new study, scientists are puzzled by a black hole that seems to be changing its galactic surroundings in a way that is usually associated with newborn stars.
Black holes are inherently strange, with gravitational forces so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. As active black holes consume gas and dust, some of that material is instead launched outward as jets of high-energy particles and radiation. Usually these jets are perpendicular to the host galaxy, but NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, found one that is shooting directly into its galaxy.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has taken an image that might look like a lightsaber floating in space, but it’s actually an entire galaxy viewed on its side.
The long red beam in the center of the image is a galaxy called NGC 5866. It lies 44 million light-years from Earth and has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years – a little more than half the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. When we think of galaxies, we often imagine massive spiral arms or thick disks of dust.
But not all galaxies are oriented face-on as viewed from Earth. From our viewpoint, we see only the edge of NGC 5866, so most of its structural features are invisible.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has found an unexpected thin disk of material furiously whirling around a supermassive black hole at the heart of the magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away.
As if black holes weren’t mysterious enough, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found an unexpected thin disk of material furiously whirling around a supermassive black hole at the heart of the magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 3147, located 130 million light-years away.
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