NASA telescope captures birth of black hole, first time ever

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : An international team of astronomers shares that the advanced telescope of NASA has captured the first ever image of a star that collapsed to form a black hole or a neutron star. The Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope in Hawaii has taken shots of unusual burst in the night sky on June 16, 2018, the US space agency said in a statement.

The celestial outburst has been dubbed as AT2018cow and nicknamed as 'the Cow'. It occurred inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. For past three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months, NASA said. 

The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object's event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow. NASA scientists have used data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and concluded that the outburst is a monster black hole shredding a passing star.

"The Cow produced a large cloud of debris in a very short time," said Paul Kuin, an astrophysicist at University College London (UCL).

"Shredding a bigger star to produce a cloud like this would take a bigger black hole, result in a slower brightness increase and take longer for the debris to be consumed."

Another team of researchers analyzed data from multiple observatories, including NASA's NuSTAR, ESA's (the European Space Agency's) XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, and the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array, claimed that it is a supernova, a stellar explosion which could be a source of the Cow.

"We saw features in the Cow that we have never seen before in a transient, or rapidly changing object," said Raffaella Margutti, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.