A rare trio of supermassive black holes has been caught in the act of coming together. Three of the light-gobbling monsters nuzzle shoulder to shoulder in SDSS J084905.51+111447.2, a system of three merging galaxies about 1 billion light-years from Earth, a new study reports.
It's a pulsar, named J0740+6620, and discrepancies in the timing of its pulses has allowed its mass to be calculated to 2.14 times that of the Sun, packed into a star just 30 kilometres (19 miles) across. To put that into perspective, the Sun has a diameter of 1.391 million km (~864,000 miles).
Try as we might, we just can’t prove Einstein wrong. One prediction of his theory of general relativity is that black holes are simple objects - and listening to them “ring” indicates this is true.
UCLA astronomers announced on September 11, 2019, that, last May, they caught the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy having an unusually large meal of interstellar gas and dust. They caught the feast on May 13 (although of course it happened some 25,000 years ago earlier, since the center of the galaxy is about 25,000 light-years away).
It's not easy to make big balls of hot gas. For starters, you need energy, and a lot of it. The kind of energy that can spread hot gas to a distance of over 25,000 light-years doesn't come easily to a typical galaxy. However, the peculiar orientation of the Fermi Bubbles -- extending evenly above and below our galactic center -- is a strong clue that they might be tied our central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*.
NASA and the European Space Agency unveiled the new Saturn portrait today (Sept. 12). The image was taken on June 20 by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 as Saturn was about 845 million miles (1.36 billion kilometers) away. It's the second in a series of annual photos for the Outer Planets Legacy project by scientists studying the gas giant planets of our solar system.
At first, it was just another bright, fuzzy speck in the sky. But it may turn out to be something much more exciting: the second known object to hurtle through our solar system after leaving another system. Astronomers will need a lot more observations before they can be confident giving the comet that title, but early data about the object seems promising.
About 110 light years away is a planet twice Earth’s size with water vapour in its atmosphere, and it may be the best place to look for alien life that we have yet seen. The detection of water there marks the first time astronomers have characterised the atmosphere of a planet of this size.
After 12 years of delays and cost overruns, the $9.7 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope -- the James Webb Space Telescope -- has finally been fully assembled. The two halves that make up the next-generation space telescope have been brought together by NASA engineers for the very first time, something which took many years and countless hours of planning to achieve.
Thirty years ago, NASA's Voyager 2 mission flew by Neptune, capturing the first close-up images of the blue gas giant. Before this, the eighth planet in our solar system was only known as a fuzzy dot in the distance. And the end of Voyager 2's planetary tour on August 25, 1989, concluded with a dazzling display of Neptune and it's moon, Triton. The images and scientific data returned by Voyager 2 would change our understanding of the solar system.