Black holes are regions of spacetime that form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycles. These cosmic phenomenons exhibit gravitational acceleration so strong than nothing can escape, not even light. Scientists were left slightly concerned more than a decade ago, when they received a warning thanks to a NASA satellite.
It was revealed during YouTube series “Monster black hole” how researchers around the world were put on high alert.
The series explained: “March 29, 2008, astronomers around the world receive an alert sent from an orbiting observatory called Swift.
“It had recorded a flash of gamma radiation, a kind of ultra-high energy light that is the signature of a cataclysmic event.
“Swift automatically relayed the information down to Earth and within seconds robotic telescopes in North and South America turn their gaze on the rising light.
It was the most luminous thing ever detected by mankind
“Astronomers dial into the data to see how bright and powerful the flash had become.”
The series went on to reveal how researchers quickly worked to calculate what was going on.
The narrator added: “Meanwhile, at giant observatories in Chile and Texas, they zero in on it and use specialised instruments to split the light into all its different wavelengths.
“That tells them how far the light had travelled to reach Earth.
“What they find is it had come from seven-and-a-half billion light-years away, halfway across the visible universe.
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“Tom Vestrand heads a robotic telescope project at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico.
“He’s been tracking high-energy gamma-ray bursts for over a decade and has never seen anything like this.”
Dr Vestrand told viewers: “It was the most luminous thing ever detected by mankind.
“Traditionally we think of astronomy as something that happens very slowly, but this was a thing that had been travelling to us for 7.5 billion years.
“Arrived here and for 30 seconds it was astonishingly bright minutes later meaning it was still showing signs of saturation.”
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The narrator concluded by revealing why scientists determined it was a black hole.
He continued: “It was so bright that it was visible to the naked eye.
“Putting together evidence from ground and space telescopes, astronomers determined that the flash was a narrow but intense beam of light.
“Most likely it broadcasted the birth of a black hole.
“This singular moment is the endpoint of a violent chain of events in the core of a large star.”
Another NASA satellite, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, captured a black hole “dance of death” more recently.
YouTube channel Space and Astronomy revealed the incredible images captured by the satellite of a phenomenon known as Messier 87 in the Virgo galaxy, about 60 million light years from Earth.
The narrator explained: “The orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory recently turned up evidence at the centres of galaxies back in the time of the early universe.
“These images show its remarkable find, actual supermassive black hole pairs beginning what astronomers believe is a dance of death.
“In most cases their forward momentum simply causes them to go into orbit around each other, like a planet around the Sun.
“This orbit can go on for billions of years.”
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