Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

VLBA observations key to 'complete description' of black hole

November 18, 2011

Precise distance measurement allowed calculation of mass, spin rate

For the first time, astronomers have produced a complete description of a black hole, a concentration of mass so dense that not even light can escape its powerful gravitational pull. Their precise measurements have allowed them to reconstruct the history of the object from its birth some six million years ago.

Using several telescopes, both ground-based and in orbit, the scientists unravelled longstanding mysteries about the object called Cygnus X-1, a famous binary-star system discovered to be strongly emitting X-rays nearly a half-century ago. The system consists of a black hole and a companion star from which the black hole is drawing material. The scientists' efforts yielded the most accurate measurements ever of the black hole's mass and spin rate.

"Because no other information can escape from a black hole, knowing its mass, spin, and electrical charge gives a complete description of it," said Mark Reid, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "The charge of this black hole is nearly zero, so measuring its mass and spin make our description complete," he added.

Though Cygnus X-1 has been studied intensely since its discovery, previous attempts to measure its mass and spin suffered from lack of a precise measurement of its distance from Earth. Reid led a team that used the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a continent-wide radio-telescope system, to make a direct trigonometric measurement of the distance. Their VLBA observations provided a distance of 6070 light-years, while previous estimates had ranged from 5800-7800 light-years.

Armed with the new, precise distance measurement, scientists using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer, the Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics, and visible-light observations made over more than two decades, calculated that the black hole in Cygnus X-1 is nearly 15 times more massive than our Sun and is spinning more than 800 times per second.

"This new information gives us strong clues about how the black hole was born, what it weighed and how fast it was spinning," Reid said. "Getting a good measurement of the distance was crucial," Reid added.

"We now know that Cygnus X-1 is one of the most massive stellar black holes in the Milky Way," said Jerry Orosz, of San Diego State University. "It's spinning as fast as any black hole we've ever seen," he added.

In addition to measuring the distance, the VLBA observations, made during 2009 and 2010, also measured Cygnus X-1's movement through our Galaxy. That movement, the scientists, said, is too slow for the black hole to have been produced by a supernova explosion. Such an explosion would have given the object a "kick" to a much higher speed.

"There are suggestions that this black hole could have been formed without a supernova explosion, and our results support those suggestions," Reid said.

Reid, Orosz, and Lijun Gou, also of CfA, were the lead authors of three papers on Cygnus X-1 published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The VLBA, dedicated in 1993, uses ten, 25-meter-diameter dish antennas distributed from Hawaii to St. Croix in the Caribbean. It is operated from the NRAO's Domenici Science Operations Center in Socorro, NM. All ten antennas work together as a single telescope with the greatest resolving power available to astronomy. This unique capability has produced landmark contributions to numerous scientific fields, ranging from Earth tectonics, climate research, and spacecraft navigation to cosmology.

Ongoing upgrades in electronics and computing have enhanced the VLBA's capabilities. With improvements now nearing completion, the VLBA will be as much as 5,000 times more powerful as a scientific tool than the original VLBA of 1993.

###

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

National Radio Astronomy Observatory


Related Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News Articles


Galactic center's gamma rays unlikely to originate from dark matter, evidence shows
Bursts of gamma rays from the center of our galaxy are not likely to be signals of dark matter but rather other astrophysical phenomena such as fast-rotating stars called millisecond pulsars, according to two new studies, one from a team based at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and another based in the Netherlands.

Russian volunteer programmers helped the Lomonosov MSU to find the mysterious black holes
The term "black holes" was first used in the mid-20th century by theoretical physicist John Wheeler. This term denotes relativistic supermassive objects that are invisible in all electromagnetic waves, but a great number of astrophysical effects confirms their existence.

The turbulent birth of a quasar
The most luminous galaxy known in the Universe - the quasar W2246-0526, seen when the Universe was less than 10% of its current age - is so turbulent that it is in the process of ejecting its entire supply of star-forming gas, according to new observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Signs of second largest black hole in the Milky Way
A team of astronomers led by Tomoharu Oka, a professor at Keio University in Japan, has found an enigmatic gas cloud, called CO-0.40-0.22, only 200 light years away from the center of the Milky Way.

'Space Warps' and other citizen science projects reap major dividends for astrophysic
Thanks to the Internet, amateur volunteers known as "citizen scientists" can readily donate their time and effort to science--in fields ranging from medicine to zoology to astrophysics. The astrophysics project Space Warps offers a compelling example of why citizen science has become such a popular tool and how valuable it can be.

UTSA-led team finds black hole affecting galactic climate
A team of researchers led by Eric Schlegel, Vaughn Family Endowed Professor in Physics at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has discovered a powerful galactic blast produced by a giant black hole about 26 million light years from Earth.

VERITAS detects gamma rays from galaxy halfway across the visible universe
In April 2015, after traveling for about half the age of the universe, a flood of powerful gamma rays from a distant galaxy slammed into Earth's atmosphere.

Gamma rays from distant galaxy tell story of an escape
A flare of very high-energy gamma rays emitted from a galaxy halfway across the universe has put new bounds on the amount of background light in the universe and given astrophysicists clues to how and where such gamma rays are produced.

First light from Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC) instrument onboard ASTROSAT
ASTROSAT is India's first dedicated science space mission which was launched on 28 September 2015. The Large Area X-ray Propositional Counter (LAXPC), designed and developed at TIFR, Mumbai, is one of the major payloads on ASTROSAT.

Event Horizon Telescope reveals magnetic fields at Milky Way's central black hole
Most people think of black holes as giant vacuum cleaners sucking in everything that gets too close. But the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies are more like cosmic engines, converting energy from infalling matter into intense radiation that can outshine the combined light from all surrounding stars.
More Black Hole Current Events and Black Hole News Articles

Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Black Hole (Pantheon Graphic Novels)
by Charles Burns (Author)


Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards

The setting: suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. We learn from the outset that a strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways — from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable) — but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.

As we inhabit the heads of several key characters — some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it — what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it , or even to treat it. What we become witness to instead is a fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself — the savagery,...

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled On by Hawking Became Loved

Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled On by Hawking Became Loved
by Marcia Bartusiak (Author)


For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes—not even light—seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein and Hawking and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the universe.

Renowned science writer Marcia Bartusiak shows how the black hole helped revive Einstein’s greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, after decades during which it had been pushed into the shadows. Not until astronomers discovered such surprising new phenomena as neutron stars and black holes did the once-sedate universe...

Black Hole: A Novel

Black Hole: A Novel
by Bucky Sinister (Author)


There are no old drug addicts. That's what everyone says, at least. So how did Chuck get to his forty-third birthday and find himself still neck-deep in this scene? He knows he's the creepy old guy with the drugs or the guy who's too old to be at the party doing everyone else's drugs, but if it ain't broke ... Well, he manages to make it to work at the dwarf whale distributor every day. He may hate that his dearly seedy San Francisco has become overrun with Starbucks, startups, and Lululemon moms, but he makes do every month for the rent-controlled apartment he shares with roommates he never sees. It's not perfect, but it's livable.

In the end, though, every addict has that one special vice that can tip them from relatively functional to completely unhinged. For Chuck, it's a new...

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Author)


“[Tyson] tackles a great range of subjects . . . with great humor, humility, and―most important― humanity.” ―Entertainment Weekly Loyal readers of the monthly "Universe" essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson's talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with clarity and enthusiasm. Bringing together more than forty of Tyson's favorite essays, ?Death by Black Hole? explores a myriad of cosmic topics, from what it would be like to be inside a black hole to the movie industry's feeble efforts to get its night skies right. One of America's best-known astrophysicists, Tyson is a natural teacher who simplifies the complexities of astrophysics while sharing his infectious fascination for our...

Black Holes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Black Holes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Katherine Blundell (Author)


Black holes are a constant source of fascination to many due to their mysterious nature. This Very Short Introduction, addresses a variety of questions, including what a black hole actually is, how they are characterized and discovered, and what would happen if you came too close to one.

Professor Katherine Blundell looks at the seemingly paradoxical, mysterious, and intriguing phenomena of black holes. Outlining their nature and characteristics, both those resulting from the spectacular collapse of heavy stars, and the giant black holes found at the centres of galaxies, she separates scientific fact from science fiction, and demonstrates the important role they play in the cosmos.

ABOUT THE SERIES:
The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains...

Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)

Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy (Commonwealth Fund Book Program)
by Kip S. Thorne (Author), Stephen Hawking (Foreword)


Ever since Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity burst upon the world in 1915 some of the most brilliant minds of our century have sought to decipher the mysteries bequeathed by that theory, a legacy so unthinkable in some respects that even Einstein himself rejected them. Which of these bizarre phenomena, if any, can really exist in our universe? Black holes, down which anything can fall but from which nothing can return; wormholes, short spacewarps connecting regions of the cosmos; singularities, where space and time are so violently warped that time ceases to exist and space becomes a kind of foam; gravitational waves, which carry symphonic accounts of collisions of black holes billions of years ago; and time machines, for traveling backward and forward in time.

...

Black Holes: Everything You Need to Know About Black Holes and Black Hole Physics (space exploration, space, astronomy, Cosmology)

Black Holes: Everything You Need to Know About Black Holes and Black Hole Physics (space exploration, space, astronomy, Cosmology)



Everything you Need to Know about Black Holes and Black Hole Physics!

Black Holes have been, and are still to this day, one of the great mysteries of cosmology. They have inspired the imaginations of generations when looking out into space and have been the focus of astronomy for years. Today, much is known about black hole physics and the characteristics of these great beasts of space. This book will bring you up to speed with what we know today about black holes.


Here Is A Preview Of What You'll Learn...Black Hole FundamentalsBlack Hole HistoryBlack Hole FormationBlack Hole AnatomyEvent HorizonSpace and TimeEntering a Black HoleCosmology and AstronomySchwarzschild RadiusPrimordial Black HoleSupermassive Black HoleStellar Black HoleSingularityPhoton...

Black Holes (True Books: Space (Paperback))

Black Holes (True Books: Space (Paperback))
by Ker Than (Author)


- Clean new design for easy readability and comprehension
- Updated text presented in a lively, continuous narrative
- New center-spread "sidebar" feature presenting material in a fun, creative way
- Excellent age-appropriate introduction to curriculum-relevant subjects
- "Important Words" glossary clarifies subject-specific vocabulary
- "Resources" section encourages independent study
- Index makes navigating subject matter easy

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole

A Black Hole Is Not a Hole
by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano (Author), Michael Carroll (Illustrator)


Get ready to S-T-R-E-T-C-H your mind!

What is a black hole? Where do they come from? How were they discovered? Can we visit one? Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano takes readers on a ride through the galaxies (ours, and others), answering these questions and many more about the phenomenon known as a black hole.

In lively and often humorous text, the book starts off with a thorough explanation of gravity and the role it plays in the formation of black holes. Paintings by Michael Carroll, coupled with real telescopic images, help readers visualize the facts and ideas presented in the text, such as how light bends, and what a supernova looks like.

A BLACK HOLE IS NOT A HOLE is an excellent introduction to an extremely complex scientific concept. Back matter includes a timeline...

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
by Stephen W. Hawking (Author)


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

THIRTEEN EXTRAORDINARY ESSAYS SHED NEW LIGHT ON THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE—AND ON ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT THINKERS OF OUR TIME.
 
In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his...

© 2016 BrightSurf.com