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#GeniusUpDailyNews! @EMPIREGENIUS: NASA Finds Supermassive Black Hole Birthing Stars at “Furious Rate”

Galaxy clusters have been fascinating astronomers for decades. Often consisting of thousands of galaxies, the clusters are the largest known structures being held together by gravitational forces.

At their centers, astronomers have found some of the biggest and most powerful black holes ever discovered, and high-energy jets of extremely hot particles emanating from these black holes were found to be preventing the formation of stars — which, of course, raised a galactic mystery: where are all the stars coming from?

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But now, thanks to data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of scientists has foundthat a galaxy cluster called the Phoenix Cluster, some 5.8 billion light years from Earth, is birthing stars at a “furious rate.”

Its black hole seemed to be far weaker than other clusters’ black holes, with trillions of Suns’ masses worth of hot gas cooling around it, allowing the formation of a vast number of stars. Usually black holes have keep those gases from cooling — thereby stopping the formation of stars — by continuously spewing out high-energy jets of particles.

The research could help us understand the life cycle of galaxy clusters and how the supermassive black holes at their centers interfere — and sometimes, seemingly, aid — the formation of stars within them.

A paper of the results was published in The Astrophysical Journal last month.


“Imagine running an air-conditioner in your house on a hot day, but then starting a wood fire. Your living room can’t properly cool down until you put out the fire,” co-author Brian McNamara from the University of Waterloo, Canada, said in a statement. “Similarly, when a black hole’s heating ability is turned off in a galaxy cluster, the gas can then cool.”

In fact, they found that the hot gas was cooling at the same rate as when a black hole stops injecting energy. And that means a huge amount of stars are allowed to be born in regions where the hot gas has cooled sufficiently — in fact, the Phoenix Cluster is forming new stars at 500 times the rate of the Milky Way galaxy, according to X-ray observations made by the Chandra Observatory.

This effect won’t go on forever, though.

“These results show that the black hole has temporarily been assisting in the formation of stars, but when it strengthens its effects will start to mimic those of black holes in other clusters, stifling more star birth,” co-author Mark Voit from Michigan State University said in the statement.

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#GeniusUpDailyNews!: Earthlings get first glimpse of a black hole

Earthlings get first glimpse of a black hole
Earthlings get first glimpse of a black hole

The history books will mark Wednesday, April 10, as the day humanity got its first look at a black hole.

That’s when astronomers around the world unveiled the results of the “herculean task” of providing the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole captured by a global network of eight telescopes on five continents, collectively called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The “event horizon” marks the distance from a black hole at which light is trapped by its enormous gravity, the point of no return.

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This is the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. (Photo:

“We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” said EHT director Sheperd Doeleman at a press briefing hosted by the National Science Foundation and EHT in Washington, D.C. “We have seen and taken a picture of a black hole.”

“We’ve been studying black holes so long, sometimes it’s easy to forget that none of us have actually seen one,” said France Cordova, director of the National Science Foundation, at the D.C. conference, one of seven concurrent briefings in cities including Brussels, Shanghai and Tokyo.

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The black hole, which scientists said is 6.5 billion times more massive than the sun and spins clockwise, was discovered more than 50 million light years from Earth at the center of a galaxy called Messier 87 (M87).

“What we see is larger than the size of our entire solar system,” Heino Falcke, a Netherlands professor told BBC News. “And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the universe.”

“You have probably seen many, many images of black holes before,” said Falcke at the press briefing. “But they were all simulations or animations. And this is precious to all of us, because this one is finally real.”

The decadeslong endeavor to capture the massive black hole culminated in one week in April 2017, during which all eight telescopes observed the same areas of space and collected vast amounts of data that then took months to analyze. Over 200 researchers took part in the project, computing data over the course of two years.

But before this revelation, three years ago Katie Bouman, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, led the development of a new algorithm to help astronomers produce the first image of a black hole.

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Black holes are invisible, dense remnants of a large star that died in a supernova explosion, according to NASA. Their intense gravity field pulls in everything around it, including light.

“But some black holes, especially supermassive ones dwelling in galaxies’ centers, stand out by voraciously accreting bright disks of gas and other material,” reported Science News. “The EHT image reveals the shadow of M87’s black hole on its accretion disk. Appearing as a fuzzy, asymmetrical ring, it unveils for the first time a dark abyss of one of the universe’s most mysterious objects.”

The picture of the black hole captured by the Earth-spanning telescope network shows a halo of “emission from hot gas swirling around [the black hole] under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.” It is further confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general Theory of Relativity, which predicted the existence of black holes.

“This has been our first chance to see the inner workings of black holes and to test a fundamental prediction of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity,” Feryal Ozel, an astrophysicist who was the modeling and analysis lead on the project, told ABC News. “Not only the existence of a shadow that indicates a point of no return — or an event horizon — but also the size and shape of that shadow.”

“It’s a dream come true, on many levels,” she added.