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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.


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“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: nsf.gov)

“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.

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Now That Mars rover Opportunity is dead. Here’s Where It Have Helped #GeniusUp! Humankind Intelligent Minds!

The spacecraft lasted more than 50 times longer than originally planned, delivering groundbreaking science and inspiring a generation

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After more than 14 years driving across the surface of Mars, the NASA rover Opportunity has fallen silent—marking the end of a defining mission to another world.

At a press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, NASA bid farewell to the rover it placed on Mars on January 25, 2004: before Facebook, before the iPhone, and even before some of the scientists now in charge of it graduated high school. In its record-breaking time on Mars, the rover drove more than 28 miles, finding some of the first definitive signs of past liquid water on the red planet’s surface.

“With this mission, more than other robotic missions, we have made that human bond, so saying goodbye is a lot harder. But at the same time, we have to remember this phenomenal accomplishment—this historic exploration we’ve done,” says John Callas, the project manager for the Mars Exploration Rovers mission. “I think it’ll be a long time before any mission surpasses what we were able to do.”

NASA had not heard from the rover since June 2018, when one of the most severe dust storms ever observed on Mars blotted out much of the red planet’s sky and overtook the solar-powered rover. Initially, the storm didn’t give the team pause. From about November to January, the red planet saw seasonal winds strong enough to wipe accumulated dust from Opportunity’s solar panels, which is one of the major reasons the rover lasted so long in the first place. But when “rover cleaning” season came and went without signals from Opportunity, hopes that it had survived began to dim

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On January 25, the team sent Opportunity a set of last-ditch commands, hoping that the rover had fallen silent because of malfunctioning antennae and an internal clock on the fritz. But the commands meant to fix this admittedly unlikely scenario didn’t wake the rover.

Now, as Martian fall and winter overtake it, NASA says that the rover will remain forever paused halfway down a windswept gully, named Perseverance Valley for the rover’s dogged effort.

The announcement marks the end of the record-smashing Mars Exploration Rovers mission, which built and operated Opportunity and its sibling rover, Spirit. The two rovers were each designed to go less than a mile and last 90 to a hundred Martian days, or sols. But the pair surpassed every conceivable expectation. After landing on January 4, 2004, Spirit drove hard through rugged terrain until it got stuck in 2009 and went silent in 2010. Meanwhile, Opportunity went farther for longer than any other vehicle on another world—and all other Mars rovers combined.

“It was one heck of a mission, wasn’t it?” Mike Seibert, a former driver of Opportunity, says in an email. “I am looking forward to the future when Opportunity’s records fall, because that will mean that we continue to explore our solar system. And I look forward to congratulating the team that puts Opportunity into second place.” (See amazing pictures from 20 years of nonstop rovers on Mars.)

“I always felt that were really two honorable ways for a mission like this to end,” adds Cornell planetary scientist Steve Squyres, the mission’s longtime principal investigator. “One is simply that we wear the vehicles out. The other is Mars just finally reaches out and kills them. To have Opportunity go for 14-and-a-half years and then get taken out by one of the most ferocious Mars dust storms in decades—if that’s the way it plays out, we can walk away with our heads held high.”

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