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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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Hubble Returns To Normal Functioning Soon: NASA

After the engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated

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NASA, space, red dwarf, hubble
Hubble's backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. Flcikr

NASA has brought Hubble Space Telescope’s seven-year old backup gyroscope (gyro) back to life, after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro earlier this month, the US space agency said on Tuesday.

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Hubble’s backup gyro, which had been off for more than 7.5 years, was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates, NASA said in a statement.

Hubble
The Hubble Telescope hovering in space. Wikimedia Commons

This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5.

Additional tests will be performed to ensure Hubble can return to science operations with this gyro, NASA said.

To correct high rotation rates, the Hubble team executed a running restart of the gyro on October 16.

This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down.

However, the data showed no improvement in the gyro’s performance.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
This gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered safe mode due to a failed gyro on October 5. Flickr

The team, then on October 18, commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers, or turns, in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage that may have caused the float to be off-centre and produce the exceedingly high rates.

During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.

They noticed a significant reduction in the high rates, allowing rates to be measured in low mode for brief periods of time.

On October 19, the team again commanded Hubble to perform additional maneuvers and gyro mode switches, which appear to have cleared the issue.

NASA mars, UAE, Hubble
The planet Mars is shown May 12, 2016 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view when it was 50 million miles from Earth. VOA

The rotation rates produced by the backup gyro have since reduced and are now within an expected range, NASA noted.

Also Read: New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

The team plans to execute a series of tests to evaluate the performance of the gyro under conditions similar to those encountered during routine science observations, including moving to targets, locking on to a target, and performing precision pointing.

After these engineering tests have been completed, Hubble is expected to soon return to normal science operations, NASA stated. (IANS)