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Chandra X-ray Observatory image reveals growth of Black Holes over Billions of Years: NASA

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NASA plans to Crash a Refrigerator-Sized Spacecraft. VOA

Washington, Jan 6, 2017: NASA said its Chandra X-ray Observatory has obtained an image that gives astronomers the best look yet at the growth of black holes over billions of years beginning soon after the Big Bang.

This is the deepest X-ray image ever obtained, collected with about eleven and a half weeks of Chandra observing time, the US space agency said in a statement.

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The image comes from what is known as the Chandra Deep Field-South. The central region of the image contains the highest concentration of supermassive black holes ever seen.

“With this one amazing picture, we can explore the earliest days of black holes in the universe and see how they change over billions of years,” said Pennsylvania State University’s Niel Brandt, who led a team of astronomers studying the deep image.

About 70 per cent of the objects in the new image are supermassive black holes, which may range in mass from about 100,000 to 10 billion times the mass of the Sun.

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Gas falling towards these black holes becomes much hotter as it approaches the event horizon, or point of no return, producing bright X-ray emission.

“It can be very difficult to detect black holes in the early Universe because they are so far away and they only produce radiation if they’re actively pulling in matter,” team member Bin Luo of Nanjing University in China noted.

“But by staring long enough with Chandra, we can find and study large numbers of growing black holes, some of which appear not long after the Big Bang,” Luo added.

The new ultra-deep X-ray image allows scientists to explore ideas about how supermassive black holes grew about one to two billion years after the Big Bang.

Using these data, the researchers showed that these black holes in the early universe grow mostly in bursts, rather than via the slow accumulation of matter.

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The scientists also found hints that the seeds for supermassive black holes may be “heavy” with masses about 10,000 to 100,000 times that of the Sun, rather than light seeds with about 100 times the Sun’s mass.

This addresses an important mystery in astrophysics about how these objects can grow so quickly to reach masses of about a billion times the Sun in the early universe.

For the study, the team combined the Chandra X-ray data with very deep Hubble Space Telescope data over the same patch of sky.

These results were presented at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas. (IANS)

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Koch to Set Record for Longest Spaceflight by Woman, Will Spend 328 Days in Space

"One month down. Ten to go," Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. "Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it"

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FILE - In this April 8, 2019, photo made available by NASA, astronaut and Expedition 59 Flight Engineer Christina Koch works on U.S. spacesuits inside the Quest airlock of the International Space Station. VOA

A female astronaut is due to set a record for the longest spaceflight by a woman, the U.S. space agency said Wednesday, the same astronaut who was to have been in the first all-female spacewalk scrapped over lack of a right-sized spacesuit.

Astronaut Christina Koch, who completed the space walk with a man instead of a female colleague last month, will remain in orbit on board the International Space Station until February, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.

Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space.

The 40-year-old astronaut has been in orbit since last month.

“One month down. Ten to go,” Koch wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “Privileged to contribute my best every single day of it.”

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FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), looks on prior the launch of Soyuz MS-12 space ship at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, March 14, 2019. VOA

In late March, NASA canceled what would have been the first all-female spacewalk with Koch and astronaut Anne McClain due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size for McClain.

The walk was would have occurred during the final week of Women’s History Month.

On board the orbiting space station, astronauts work on a range of experiments in biology, biotechnology, health, earth, space and other sciences.

The typical stay for astronauts is six months, NASA said.

“NASA is looking to build on what we have learned with additional astronauts in space for more than 250 days,” Jennifer Fogarty, a chief scientist for NASA’s Human Research Program, said in a statement.

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Part of NASA’s study of the effects of long spaceflights on the human body, Koch will spend 328 days in space. Pixabay

Record holders

Astronaut Peggy Whitson holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, staying in orbit 288 days in 2016 and 2017, NASA said.

“It’s my honor to follow in Peggy’s footsteps,” Koch said in a video from the International Space Station, orbiting over 200 miles (322 km) above Earth.

ALSO READ: SpaceX Launches Second Supersized ‘Falcon’ Heavy Rocket, For the First Time Lands all Three Boosters

Of the more than 500 people who have traveled to space, fewer than 11 percent have been women. But Koch graduated from NASA’s 2013 class of astronauts that was 50 percent women.

The overall NASA record of 340 days, set in 2016, is held by astronaut Scott Kelly in an experiment to compare his physical and mental health to his identical twin Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth. (VOA)