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Chandra Finds Nearest Pair of Supermassive Black Holes

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/G.Fabbiano et al; Optical: NASA/STScI

Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover the first pair of supermassive black holes in a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way. At a distance of 160 million light years, it is also the nearest known pair of supermassive black holes.

The black holes are located near the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 3393. Separated by only 490 light years, the black holes are likely the remnant of a merger of two galaxies of unequal mass a billion or more years ago.

“If this galaxy wasn’t so close we’d have no chance of separating the two black holes in the way we have here,” said Pepi Fabbiano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who led the study that appears in this week’s electronic issue of the journal Nature. “Since this galaxy was right under our noses by cosmic standards, it makes us wonder how many of these black hole pairs we’ve been missing.”

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/press/11_releases/press_083111.html

NASA’S Swift Satellite Spots Black Hole Devouring A Star

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Two studies appearing in the Aug. 25 issue of the journal Nature provide new insights into a cosmic accident that has been streaming X-rays toward Earth since late March. NASA’s Swift satellite first alerted astronomers to intense and unusual high-energy flares from the new source in the constellation Draco.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/aug/HQ_11-271_Swift_Black_Hole.html