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Smallest super massive black hole ever detected

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Washington: Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have identified the smallest super-massive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy. 

Photo credit: spore.wikia.com

This “oxymoronic” object could provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past.

Astronomers estimate this super massive black hole is about 50,000 times the mass of the sun.

This is less than half the mass of the previous smallest black hole at the center of a galaxy.

“It might sound contradictory, but finding such a small, large black hole is very important,” said Vivienne Baldassare from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in a statement.

“We can use observations of the lightest super massive black holes to better understand how black holes of different sizes grow,” he added in a paper which appeared in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The tiny heavyweight black hole is in the center of a dwarf disk galaxy called RGG 118, located about 340 million light years from Earth.

Researchers used the Chandra data to figure out the X-ray brightness of hot gas swirling toward the black hole.

They found the outward push of radiation pressure of this hot gas is about one percent of the black hole’s inward pull of gravity, matching the properties of other super massive black holes.

The black hole in RGG 118 is nearly 100 times less massive than the super massive black hole found in the center of the Milky Way.

It’s also about 200,000 times less massive than the heaviest black holes found in the centers of other galaxies.

Astronomers are trying to understand the formation of billion-solar-mass black holes from less than a billion years after the big bang, but many are undetectable with current technology.

The black hole in RGG 118 gives astronomers an opportunity to study a nearby small super massive black hole. 

(IANS)

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay

After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)

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