Feeds

Swift catches birth of black hole on camera

Living up to its name

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.