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Dwarf star found orbiting closest to black hole

Researchers have found evidence of a white dwarf star orbiting a likely black hole at a distance of only 961,000 km at an astonishing speed

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star orbiting black hole, wikimedia

New York, March 14, 2017: Researchers have found evidence of a white dwarf star orbiting a likely black hole at a distance of only 961,000 km — just about 2.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

In a tightest orbital dance ever witnessed for a black hole and a companion star, the star whips around the black hole at an astonishing speed — about two orbits an hour, said the study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“This white dwarf is so close to the black hole that material is being pulled away from the star and dumped onto a disk of matter around the black hole before falling in,” said study lead author Arash Bahramian, affiliated with the University of Alberta in Canada and Michigan State University in the US.

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“Luckily for this star, we don’t think it will follow this path into oblivion, but instead will stay in orbit,” Bahramian said.

Although the white dwarf does not appear to be in danger of falling in or being torn apart by the black hole, its fate is uncertain.

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The stellar system, known as X9, is located in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae, a dense cluster of stars in our galaxy about 14,800 light years away from the Earth.

“For a long time astronomers thought that black holes were rare or totally absent in globular star clusters,” study co-author Jay Strader from Michigan State University said.

“This discovery is additional evidence that, rather than being one of the worst places to look for black holes, globular clusters might be one of the best,” Strader added.

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For the study, the researchers used data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array as well as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NuSTAR telescope. (IANS)

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NASA Telescopes Capture Birth of Black Hole or Neutron Star

"Shredding a bigger star to produce a cloud like this would take a bigger black hole, result in a slower brightness increase and take longer for the debris to be consumed."

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Nasa's Opportunity rover might have 'died' on Mars. Flickr

An international team of astronomers, using NASA telescopes, have captured the first ever image of a star that collapsed to form a compact object, and are debating whether it is a black hole or a neutron star.

NASA’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope in Hawaii
picked up a brief and unusual burst in the night sky on June 16, 2018, the US space agency said in a statement.

The celestial outburst — called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” — occurred inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules.

For over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months, NASA said.

The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow.

Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), a team of scientists speculate that the Cow is a monster black hole shredding a passing star.

NASA, tissue
The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow. Flcikr

In a paper forthcoming in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, they say that the shredded star was a white dwarf – a hot, roughly Earth-sized stellar remnant marking the final state of stars like our Sun.

“The Cow produced a large cloud of debris in a very short time,” said Paul Kuin, an astrophysicist at University College London (UCL).

“Shredding a bigger star to produce a cloud like this would take a bigger black hole, result in a slower brightness increase and take longer for the debris to be consumed.”

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Another team of scientists, analysing data from multiple observatories, including NASA’s NuSTAR, ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, and the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array, claimed that it is a supernova — a stellar explosion — could be the source of the Cow.

“We saw features in the Cow that we have never seen before in a transient, or rapidly changing object,” said Raffaella Margutti, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

In the study, forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal, they propose that the bright optical and ultraviolet flash from the Cow signalled a supernova and that the X-ray emissions that followed shortly after the outburst arose from gas radiating energy as it fell onto a compact object. (IANS)