Feeds

Supersized stellar blackhole prompts model rewrite

Boffins go back to the drawing board

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Researchers have located the most massive stellar black hole ever discovered, just three million light-years away in a nearby galaxy. The stellar remnant is in a binary system known as M33, orbiting a huge companion star. The researchers say the find is "intriguing", because of what it suggests about stellar evolution.

Composite visual and X-Ray image of M33-X-7

Composite visual and X-Ray image of M33-X-7.

A stellar black hole is what is left after the death-by-collapsing-core of a massive star. The star that formed this one must have been huge.

The scientists used the Chandra X-Ray observatory and the Gemini telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to measure the mass of the black hole, and discovered the remnant still has 15.7 times the mass contained in our own modest, yellow sun. Its companion star is also a humdinger - checking in at roughly 70 solar masses, it is the largest known companion star to a black hole. Eventually it too will go supernova, leaving a binary system containing only black holes.

"This discovery raises all sorts of questions about how such a big black hole could have been formed," said Jerome Orosz of San Diego State University, lead author of a paper appearing in the 18 October issue of Nature.

Conventional models of black hole formation suggest that the star would have been much larger even than its 70-solar-mass companion. It would have been so big that its radius would have been larger than the current separation between the two bodies, NASA's boffins explain.

This means the two stars must have drawn closer together while sharing a common outer atmosphere. But if this were the case, according to conventional models, the black hole shouldn't have retained such a large mass.

Still, it did, so the models are being re-thought. The researchers say the star must have lost mass roughly 10 times more slowly than they expected before it exploded.

The discovery could help explain an incredibly bright supernova, observed in 2006. The progenitor of this supernova is thought to have been about 150 solar masses when it exploded, which would make more sense if more massive stars lose their mass more slowly.

The system is also interesting because it is an eclipsing black hole. This unusual property is what allowed researchers to make "unusually accurate" estimates of the mass of both the black hole and its companion. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.