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Giant Black Holes Lurking In Survey Data

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Infrared colour image of ULASJ1234+0907 located 11 billion light years from Earth and one of the reddest objects in the sky. Credit: image created using data from UKIDSS and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observator

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have used cutting-edge infrared surveys of the sky to discover a new population of enormous, rapidly growing supermassive black holes in the early Universe. The black holes were previously undetected because they sit cocooned within thick layers of dust. The new study has shown however that they are emitting vast amounts of radiation through violent interactions with their host galaxies. The team publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The most extreme object in the study is a supermassive black hole called ULASJ1234+0907. This object, located in the direction of the constellation of Virgo, is so far away that the light from it has taken 11 billion years to reach us, so we see it as it appeared in the early universe. The monster black hole has more than 10 billion times the mass of the Sun and 10,000 times the mass of the supermassive black hole in our own Milky Way, making it one of the most massive black holes ever seen.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2176-new-surveys-peer-through-dust-to-reveal-giant-supermassive-black-holes

NASA’s Swift Satellite Discovers A New Black Hole In Our Galaxy

October 8, 2012 1 comment

NASA’s Swift satellite recently detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from a source toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The outburst, produced by a rare X-ray nova, announced the presence of a previously unknown stellar-mass black hole.

“Bright X-ray novae are so rare that they’re essentially once-a-mission events and this is the first one Swift has seen,” said Neil Gehrels, the mission’s principal investigator, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This is really something we’ve been waiting for.”

An X-ray nova is a short-lived X-ray source that appears suddenly, reaches its emission peak in a few days and then fades out over a period of months. The outburst arises when a torrent of stored gas suddenly rushes toward one of the most compact objects known, either a neutron star or a black hole.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/new-black-hole.html

Grants Help Scientists Explore Boundary Between Science & Science Fiction

October 8, 2012 1 comment

Two University of California, Berkeley, scientists have received research grants to explore areas of science that bleed into science fiction.

Astronomer Geoff Marcy, who kicked off the search for extrasolar planets 20 years ago, plans to rummage through data from the Kepler space telescope in search of evidence for civilizations advanced enough to have built massive orbiting “solar” power stations.

Theoretical physicist Raphael Bousso will look for ways of detecting universes other than our own, and try to understand what these alternate universes, or multiverses, will look like.

Marcy and Bousso are among 20 innovative researchers who will share more than $4 million in New Frontiers in Astronomy & Cosmology International Grants that were announced Thursday, Oct. 4, by the University of Chicago.

Full Story: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/10/05/grants-help-scientists-explore-border-between-science-science-fiction/

Mass Of Dark Matter Revealed By Precise Measurements Of The Galaxy

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

A research team, led by Associate Professor Mareki Honma from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), has succeeded in precisely determining the astronomical yardstick for the Galaxy based upon the precise distance measurements with VERA from NAOJ and other advanced radio telescopes. The new findings are that the distance from the sun to the Galactic center is 26,100 light-years, and that the Galactic rotation velocity in the solar system is 240km/s.

The Galactic rotation velocity from this research is higher than that of previously known (220km/s). This results in the conclusion that the mass of the Galaxy, especially that of dark matter, is about 20% larger than what has been previously considered.

Full Story: http://www.nao.ac.jp/E/release/2012/10/03/mass-of-dark-matter-revealed-by-precise-measurements-of-the-galaxy.html

NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Prepares To Study Martian Soil

October 8, 2012 Leave a comment

This patch of windblown sand and dust downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the “Rocknest” site. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for analysis.

Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover’s ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions. Chemical analysis can check for ingredients necessary for life.

“We now have reached an important phase that will get the first solid samples into the analytical instruments in about two weeks,” said Mission Manager Michael Watkins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Curiosity has been so well-behaved that we have made great progress during the first two months of the mission.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-312#4