Newly discovered W49B is a stunningly beautiful black hole

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X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al; Infrared: Palomar; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory space telescope found the newest black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, which goes by the oh-so-catchy name of W49B.

The black hole is 26,000 light years away from Earth, and the light reaching our planet shows how W49B looked when it was about 1000 years old—young by cosmic measures. What makes W49B so special, though? The way it came to be, and the stunning images from Chandra.

Black holes usually occur when a star runs out of “fuel” and collapses, pushing out stellar materials and causing a supernova explosion. These are usually symmetrical explosions, but W49B threw out radiation and matter at an extremely high speed near the poles of the dying star; ejecting it faster than material located toward the star's equator.

From NASA:

"The remnant now glows brightly in X-rays and other wavelengths, offering the evidence for a peculiar explosion. By tracing the distribution and amounts of different elements in the stellar debris field, researchers were able to compare the Chandra data to theoretical models of how a star explodes. For example, they found iron in only half of the remnant while other elements such as sulfur and silicon were spread throughout. This matches predictions for an asymmetric explosion. "

In Chandra’s wonderful false color photo (above), green and blue show X-rays, yellow shows visible light, and magenta shows data from radio imaging. Images also show W49B threw iron one way, but sulfur and silicon burst out more evenly.

The explosion and resulting black hole will now be subject to a variety of studies and theory testing to help astrophysicists gain a better und understanding of how supernovas work. The rest of us though can enjoy the different images from Chandra on NASA’s Flickr page.


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This story, "Newly discovered W49B is a stunningly beautiful black hole " was originally published by TechHive.

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