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Researchers may have witnessed the birth of a black hole



Officially named AT2018cow, the object has been nicknamed "The Cow" and if it really is a neutron star or a black hole – both can be formed when a massive star collapses – it will help scientists understand what exactly happens when that type of event occurs. "We know from the theory that black holes and neutron stars form when a star dies," said Professor Raffaella Margutti in the Northwest, "but we have never seen them immediately after they are born." Margutti led Northwestern University's light incident investigation and presented her team findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting. The work will also be published in Astrophysical Journal .

First, scientists thought The Cow might be a supernova, but because it was 1

0 to 100 times brighter that a typical supernova, researchers began to look for alternative explanations. They also used a number of observatories to study The Cow, viewed it with X-rays, hard X-rays, radio waves, and gamma rays, allowing them to have a more comprehensive look at The Cow.

And some lucky breaks also helped. The dwarf galaxy that holds The Cow is about two hundred million light-years away, which may seem like a lot, but is quite close to astronomical standards. In addition, there were less than usual amounts of material surrounding the cow during the event so that astronomers can see through the cow's "central engine".

Other researchers involved in the work support the concept of the formation of a black hole or a neutron star. But some believe that the data suggests that the cow is the result of a black hole that fills a white dwarf.

It is still unclear exactly what the cow is, the collaborative way in which it was observed can help scientists discover more events like that in the future. "The cow is a good example of a type of observation that becomes critical in astronomy: rapid response to transient events," said Keck Observatory Chief Scientist John O'Meara in a statement. "We look forward to implementing new observational and telescopic instruments that enable us to be as quick in the sky and in science as possible".


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