TECH

NASA Scientists Watch A Star Turn Into A Black Hole Before Their Very Eyes

"It went out with a whimper instead of a bang."

26/05/2017 16:33

It’s not everyday that you get to witness the birth of a black hole, and yet that it precisely what scientists believe they’ve seen.

Using the Hubble telescope along with others NASA’s scientists were able to watch as a start 25 times more massive than our own crumpled into a black hole.

NASA

What makes this event so special is that the creation of a black hole was not predicted.

Normally when a star of this size reaches the end of its life it explodes in a huge event known as a supernova.

Instead it appears as though this star decided to go out with a whisper.

This fascinating event contradicts what many researchers believe which is that normally a star of this size has to go supernova before it can then create a black hole.

NASA

Now using this example, NASA’s researchers believe that as many as 30 per cent of all starts of this size simple fizzle out into black holes without ever creating a supernova explosion.

The team first discovered this particular star while looking in a supernova-rich galaxy nicknamed, rather aptly, the ‘Fireworks Galaxy’.

Within it they noticed a particular star N6946-BH1 had started to brighten on a weekly basis.

After one of their surveys failed to pick up the star they decided to take a closer look and see if it had simply dimmed.

Instead they found nothing, just empty space. Through a careful process of elimination they were then able to come to the conclusion that it had become a black hole.

Scientists aren’t entirely certain how often this strange phenomenon takes place but Scott Adams, a former Ohio State student who recently earned his doctorate doing this work believes they can make a rough estimate.

“N6946-BH1 is the only likely failed supernova that we found in the first seven years of our survey. During this period, six normal supernovae have occurred within the galaxies we’ve been monitoring, suggesting that 10 to 30 percent of massive stars die as failed supernovae,” he said.

“This is just the fraction that would explain the very problem that motivated us to start the survey, that is, that there are fewer observed supernovae than should be occurring if all massive stars die that way.”

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