With the help NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory astronomers have clocked the fastest wind yet discovered blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole. The record-breaking wind is moving about 20 million mph, or about 3 percent of the speed of light. This is nearly 10 times faster than had ever been seen from a stellar-mass black hole. Stellar-mass black holes are born when extremely massive stars collapse. They typically weigh between five and 10 times the mass of the sun. The stellar-mass black hole powering this super wind is known as IGR J17091-3624, or IGR J17091 for short. IGR J17091 is a binary system in which a sun-like star orbits a black hole.
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) is being mated, or attached, to its Pegasus XL rocket on February 17 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California.The mission’s launch is now scheduled for no earlier than March 21 to allow the launch vehicle team an additional week to complete necessary engineering reviews. After the reviews, the team will begin final preparations for the rocket’s delivery to the launch site at Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. NuSTAR will probe the hottest, densest and most energetic objects in space, including black holes and the remnants of exploded stars. It will be the first space telescope to capture sharp images in high-energy X-rays, giving astronomers a new tool for understanding the extreme side of our universe.
The Hubble Space Telescope recently spied a cluster of young blue stars surrounding a rare mid-weight black hole that suggests the black hole was once at the center of a dwarf galaxy. Astronomers think this galaxy was torn apart by the gravity of a larger host galaxy that it orbited. The violent encounter would have stripped away most of the dwarf galaxy’s stars, but it also could have compressed the gas around its central black hole, triggering a new wave of star formation. It is these new stars that Hubble recently saw signs of. The observations suggest that the young stars must be less than 200 million years old, meaning the collision between the parent galaxy and its dwarf likely occurred around that time.
According to astronomers using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be vaporizing and devouring asteroids, which could explain the frequent flares observed. For several years Chandra has detected X-ray flares about once a day from the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*, for short Sgr A*. The flares last a few hours with brightness ranging from a few times to nearly one hundred times that of the black hole’s regular output.
NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, or Galex, was placed in standby mode as engineers prepare to end mission operations, nearly nine years after the telescope’s launch. The spacecraft is scheduled to be decommissioned. The Galaxy Evolution Explorer was launched on April 28, 2003. Its mission is to study the shape, brightness, size and distance of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history. The 50 centimeter diameter (19.7-inch) telescope onboard the Galaxy Evolution Explorer sweeps the skies in search of ultraviolet-light sources.
Thanks to the presence of a natural “zoom lens” in space, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope got a uniquely close-up look at the brightest “magnified” galaxy yet discovered. In this image the light from a distant galaxy, nearly 10 billion light-years away, has been warped into a nearly 90-degree arc of light in the galaxy cluster RCS2 032727-132623. The galaxy cluster lies 5 billion light-years away. So-called gravitational lens is produced when space is warped by a massive foreground object, whether it is the sun, a black hole or an entire cluster of galaxies.
More than 20,000 radio antennas will soon connect over the Internet to scan largely unexplored radio frequencies, hunting for the first stars and galaxies and potentially signals of extraterrestrial intelligence. The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) will consist of banks of antennas in 48 stations in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, all hooked up by fiber optic cables. Currently 16,000 of LOFAR’s antennas and 41 of its stations are up, and the array will be completed by the middle of this year.
Astronomers using the partially completed ALMA observatory have found compelling evidence for how star-forming galaxies evolve into ‘red and dead’ elliptical galaxies, catching a large group of galaxies right in the middle of this change. According to lead investigator Dr. Carol Lonsdale of the North American ALMA Science Center at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, despite ALMA’s great sensitiviy to detecting starbursts, they saw nothing, or next to nothing, which is exactly what they hoped it would see. For these observations, ALMA was tuned to look for dust warmed by active star-forming regions.
According to new study astronomers have discovered a rare binary star system by following its powerful gamma-ray signal, a find that may remove the element of luck from locating more its kind.