Feeds

Swift catches birth of black hole on camera

Living up to its name

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Astronomers working on the Swift mission have photographed a gamma ray burst they think is likely to be the formation of a new black hole, 2.2bn light-years away. There was a flash of X-Rays just moments after the burst, which itself was very short-lived, followed by an optical afterglow. Astronomers think the explosion was caused by the merging of two neutron stars.

The Swift satellite is in orbit to investigate gamma-ray-bursts, the most violent, and mysterious explosions in the universe. It has been designed to respond rapidly to detection of gamma rays - within 20-70 seconds. This turn of speed is vital as the whole explosion can be over in seconds.

The satellite detected the gamma rays shortly after midnight, east coast time, on Monday this week, Space.com reports. Swift swung the rest of its sensors to face the explosion within 50 seconds, and just caught an X-Ray afterglow. Astronomers at larger, earth based observatories then went looking for the after-glow of the explosion in visible light.

This sequence, a short lived gamma ray burst followed by a short-lived X-ray burst and optical afterglow ,is the theoretical trademark of a merger of two neutron stars. But until now, the equipment available to researchers was not responsive enough or sensitive enough to do anything but detect the initial burst.

In this case, two neutron stars would have approached each other very gradually. "A fraction of a second before contact, the lower mass neutron star is disrupted and forms a neutrino driven accretion disk around the higher mass neutron star," Steinn Sigurdsson, a Penn State University researcher, told Space.com. "It implodes under the weight and forms a maximally spinning low-mass black hole."

At some point after its formation, the black hole emits a flare of superheated gases, travelling at relativistic speeds. This is when the gamma ray burst is created. ®

Related stories

Astronomers spy hot spots on neutron stars
Swift observatory sends back stunning test shot
Swift blasts off on dying star mission

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.