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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)

Next Story

NASA Selects Missions to Study Sun, its Effects on Space Weather

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system

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NASA, Missions, Sun
The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday. Pixabay

NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather.

The launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022, the US space agency said in a statement on Friday.

One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study the Earth’s response.

“These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington.

NASA, Missions, Sun
NASA has selected two new missions to study the Sun and its dynamic effects on space weather. Pixabay

The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather.

Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impact on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals and utility grids on the ground.

The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects – including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis programme to the Moon.

One of the two missions that NASA has selected is the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH. This mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind.

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The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS. The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH.

TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling the Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down towards the Earth, NASA said. (IANS)