Youngest nearby black hole found (w/ Video)

Nov 15, 2010
This composite image shows a supernova within the galaxy M100 that may contain the youngest known black hole in our cosmic neighborhood. In this image, Chandra’s X-rays are colored gold, while optical data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope are shown in red, green, and blue, and infrared data from Spitzer are red. The location of the supernova, known as SN 1979C, is labeled. Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/D.Patnaude et al, Optical: ESO/VLT, Infrared: NASA/JPL/Caltech

( -- Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence of the youngest black hole known to exist in our cosmic neighborhood. The 30-year-old black hole provides a unique opportunity to watch this type of object develop from infancy.

The black hole could help scientists better understand how massive stars explode, which ones leave behind black holes or , and the number of black holes in our galaxy and others.

The 30-year-old object is a remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100 approximately 50 million light years from Earth. Data from Chandra, NASA's , the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton and the German ROSAT observatory revealed a bright source of X-rays that has remained steady during observation from 1995 to 2007. This suggests the object is a black hole being fed either by material falling into it from the supernova or a binary companion.

"If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed," said Daniel Patnaude of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. who led the study.

The scientists think SN 1979C, first discovered by an amateur astronomer in 1979, formed when a star about 20 times more massive than the sun collapsed. Many new black holes in the distant universe previously have been detected in the form of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). However, SN 1979C is different because it is much closer and belongs to a class of supernovas unlikely to be associated with a GRB. Theory predicts most in the should form when the core of a star collapses and a GRB is not produced.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This animation shows how a black hole may have formed in SN 1979C. The collapse of a massive star is shown, after it has exhausted its fuel. A flash of light from a shock breaking through the surface of the star is then shown, followed by a powerful supernova explosion. The view then zooms into the center of the explosion. Credits: NASA/CXC/A.Hobart

"This may be the first time the common way of making a black hole has been observed," said co-author Abraham Loeb, also of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "However, it is very difficult to detect this type of black hole birth because decades of X-ray observations are needed to make the case."

The idea of a black hole with an observed age of only about 30 years is consistent with recent theoretical work. In 2005, a theory was presented that the bright optical light of this supernova was powered by a jet from a black hole that was unable to penetrate the hydrogen envelope of the star to form a GRB. The results seen in the observations of SN 1979C fit this theory very well.

Although the evidence points to a newly formed black hole in SN 1979C, another intriguing possibility is that a young, rapidly spinning neutron star with a powerful wind of high energy particles could be responsible for the X-ray emission. This would make the object in SN 1979C the youngest and brightest example of such a "pulsar wind nebula" and the youngest known neutron star. The Crab pulsar, the best-known example of a bright pulsar wind nebula, is about 950 years old.

"It's very rewarding to see how the commitment of some of the most advanced telescopes in space, like Chandra, can help complete the story," said Jon Morse, head of the Astrophysics Division at NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

The results will appear in the New Astronomy journal in a paper by Patnaude, Loeb, and Christine Jones of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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User comments : 6

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5 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2010
Does the camera really shake when a BH is formed? ;)
5 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2010
When is this black hole expected to become 31? I'd like to send a warm birthday wish.
1 / 5 (6) Nov 15, 2010
Accretion model is a stretch. NASA needs to admit genic energy model should be considered of Paul LaViolette, who also predicted Pioneer Anomoly in 1985, accurate to a factor of 2 of best available data. Otherwise, they may miss Pluto. Watch them bang their heads trying to fit the data, over and over. There is a simple model which fits both this constant emitter and the Fermi bubbles.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2010
There needs to be better clarification of the black hole age. If the BH is 50 million light years away from Earth then we can't see evidence of it until it is actually 50 million years old. Do they mean that they are seeing evidence of the black hole when it was 30 years old? This would mean that the BH is currently 50,000,030 years old.

EDIT: Nevermind. Somehow missed the sentence that said "observed age of 30 years old"
1 / 5 (5) Nov 16, 2010
Riddle me this? After that massive explosion and subsequent wind, how is it even speculated that an accretion disk is formed immediately so close to the stellar core to power this high power constant emission? How about this? Do astrophysicists think? I think not.

LaViolette has shown that this is simply a stellar core generating it's own power through a natural process, augmented by the intense gravity well within the dense core. It's a common process taking place in all massive bodies, but in proportion to the gravity field therein. M-L diagram extends to both brown dwarfs and even planets.
1 / 5 (3) Nov 17, 2010
The supernova within the galaxy M100 can be due to Uranium fission. It is because possibility of a nuclear fission causing solar flare is reported in the following paper:

M.A. Padmanabha Rao,
UV dominant optical emission newly detected from radioisotopes and XRF sources,
Brazilian Journal of Physics, Vol.40, no.1, March 2010.

Regarding SN 1979C, the hypothesis "rapidly spinning neutron star with a powerful wind of high energy particles could be responsible for the X-ray emission" is akin to nuclear fission generating neutrons.
In nuclear fission, one after another the core electrons are knocked out of excited atoms in radioisotopes (fission fragments)resulting into characterisctic X-ray emission. That is how X-rays are observed from SN 1979C. Intially, gamma rays might have been already emitted and knocked out most core electrons from fission fragments formed in SN 1979C.

M.A.Padmanabha Rao PhD

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