The ESO's Very Large Telescope, with help from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, has found the most powerful pair of jets ever witnessed ejecting from a small, stellar-sized black hole. But while the black hole (by black hole standards, anyhow) is small enough to be classified a microquasar, the jets are anything but tiny, sufficiently powerful to spawn a giant, fiery gas bubble 1,000 light years across.
Until recently, radio astronomers have concentrated almost exclusively on the high-energy radiation streaming in towards Earth from exotic stellar bodies like pulsars, quasars, and super-massive black holes. But now, a new European observatory called the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) has begun releasing data on the low-energy radiation that permeates the Universe.
Dark matter, the material that makes up the majority of the matter in the universe, remains so mysterious that scientists don't even know how much of it there is, let alone how it behaves. However, using new calculations about the interaction between black holes and dark matter, scientists have deduced an upper limit on the amount of dark matter in the Milky Way.
By definition, one can't see a black hole itself, only its effect on the light of intervening stars. And without some serious equipment, even that's a tall order. Luckily for all us amateur astronomers, Thomas Müller and Daniel Weiskopf of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, have created a simulation that uses actual star data to calculate exactly what seeing the Schwarzschild black hole would look like.
So which comes first, the black hole or the galaxy? The questions has vexed astrophysicists for ages, but European researchers think they may have figured out the answer. A recent study suggests supermassive black holes can spawn star formation, in essence creating their own host galaxies around them.
Just because most black holes are solar-system-sized maelstroms with reality-warping gravitational pulls doesn't mean you can't have one in your pocket! That's right, just in time for the holidays comes the pocket black hole. Designed by scientists at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China, this eight-and-a-half-inch-wide disk absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation you throw at it, with none of the pesky time dilation and Hawking radiation associated with the larger, interstellar versions.
While Robert Frost famously said that he prefers the world to end in fire, physicists have long predicted the universe will end with an icy sputter known as "heat death." Heat death occurs when the universe finally uses up all its energy, with all motion stopping and all the atoms in creation grinding to a halt. And, based on new calculations from a team of Australian physicists, it looks like heat death is far closer than previously thought.
Two pinpoints of light represent black holes in the center of this combined X-ray/optical image
Colliding black holes may prove more interesting to scientists than the immovable object versus the unstoppable force. New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has combined with optical images from Hubble to show off a merging black hole pair in all its glory.
After decades of work, the Large Hadron Collider went live 143 days ago and went down 139 days ago. Its being offline, however, has hardly put an end to speculation over what exactly will happen when the repairs are completed and the switch is flipped on the world's largest particle accelerator. Scientists from the Universities of Bologna and Alabama recently submitted a paper to Cornelll's arXiv.org exploring the possibility that those (harmless) microscopic black holes we'd heard so much about could stick around longer than previously believed. No matter that their conclusion was basically, still: "so what? Ain't gonna do nothin." News outlets,as SciAm notes, jumped over the story and the anti-LHC kook-contingent resurfaced.
So here's to you, naysayers and doomsdayers alike. After the jump, a very special episode of "Science of YouTube," wherein the LHC goes online and the Earth is destroyed. Enjoy!