RECENT LOCATIONS

Close
Add a location
Edit your saved locations

Rare explosion may have caused galaxy's youngest black hole


X-ray imagery of W49B (courtesy: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al; Infrared: Palomar; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA)
X-ray imagery of W49B (courtesy: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al; Infrared: Palomar; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA)

Staff writers

February 13, 2013 — New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has detected evidence of a supernova remnant that may contain our galaxy's youngest black hole.

W49B is about 26,000 light years from Earth
W49B is about 26,000 light years from Earth

Scientists believe the remnant, called W49B, is the result of a rare type of explosion.

Normally, when a star ends its life cycle its central region collapses, triggering a supernova explosion that is symmetrical in shape, with debris moving away in even amounts in all directions.

In the case of the W49B supernova, material near the poles ejected at a faster speed, resulting in a highly-distorted supernova remnant that appears to be housing the galaxy's youngest black hole.

It is believed to be about 1,000 years old and 26,000 light years from Earth. 

In normal circumstances, supernova explosions are symmetrical -- W49B's explosion was asymmetrical
In normal circumstances, supernova explosions are symmetrical -- W49B's explosion was asymmetrical

"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," said study lead Laura Lopez of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a statement.

"It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't." 

Supernova explosions aren't entirely understood. Scientists hope this peculiar case may provide new insight into how they unfurl -- while supplying some clues about black hole formation.

 "It's a bit circumstantial, but we have intriguing evidence the W49B supernova also created a black hole," said co-author Daniel Castro, also of MIT, in a statement.

"If that is the case, we have a rare opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole." 

Sign in or Sign up to submit a comment.




Comments





Take your weather with you, no matter where you go.

Get instant forecasts and alerts, right on your computer.

  • RSS & Data
Add weather updates to your website or RSS reader.