Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA's Swift Satellite Finds Newborn Black Holes

Date:
August 23, 2005
Source:
National Aeronautics And Space Administration
Summary:
Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite say they have found newborn black holes, just seconds old, in a confused state of existence. The holes are consuming material falling into them while somehow propelling other material away at great speeds.

When a massive star runs out of fuel, it no longer has the energy to support its mass. The core collapses and forms a black hole. Shockwaves bounce out and obliterate the outer shells of the star. This animation depicts what happens to the most massive stars when they die. Previously scientists thought that a single explosion is followed by a graceful afterglow of the dying embers. Now, according to Swift observations, it appears that a newborn black hole in the core somehow re-energizes the explosion again and again, creating multiple bursts all within a few minutes.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Dana Berry

Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite say they have found newbornblack holes, just seconds old, in a confused state of existence. Theholes are consuming material falling into them while somehow propellingother material away at great speeds.

These black holes are born in massive star explosions. An initialblast obliterates the star, yet the chaotic black hole activity appearsto re-energize the explosion several times in just a few minutes. Thisis a dramatically different view of star death, one that entailsmultiple explosive outbursts and not just a single bang, as previouslythought.

"Stars are exploding two, three and sometimes four times in thefirst minutes following the initial explosion," said Prof. DavidBurrows of Penn State, University Park, Pa. "First comes a blast ofgamma rays followed by intense pulses of X-rays. The energies involvedare much greater than anyone expected," he added.

Scientists have seen this phenomenon in nearly half of the longergamma-ray bursts detected by Swift. These gamma-ray bursts are the mostpowerful explosions known. They are forerunners of a massive starexplosion called a hypernova, which is bigger than a supernova. UsingSwift, scientists are finally able to see gamma-ray bursts withinminutes after the trigger, instead of hours or days, and are privy tonewborn black hole activity.

Until this latest Swift discovery, scientists assumed a simplescenario of a single explosion followed by a graceful afterglow of thedying embers. The new scenario of a blast followed by a series ofpowerful "hiccups" is particularly evident in a gamma-ray burst fromMay 2, 2005, named GRB 050502B. This burst lasted 17 seconds during theearly morning hours in the constellation Leo. About 500 seconds later,Swift detected a spike in X-ray light about 100 times brighter thananything seen before.

Previously there had been hints of an "X-ray bump" between the burstand afterglow in previous gamma-ray bursts, coming a minute or so afterthe burst. Swift has seen more than one dozen clear cases of multipleexplosions. There are several theories to describe this newlydiscovered phenomenon and most point to the presence of a newborn blackhole.

"The newly formed black hole immediately gets to work," said Prof.Peter Meszaros of Penn State, head of the Swift theory team. "We aren'tclear on the details yet, but it appears to be messy. Matter is fallinginto the black hole, which releases a great amount of energy. Othermatter gets blasted away from the black hole and flies out into theinterstellar medium. This is by no means a smooth operation," he added.

Another theory is the jet of material shooting away from the deadstar starts to fall back onto itself, creating shockwaves in the jetcore that ram together blobs of gas and produce X-ray light.

"None of this was realized before simply because we couldn't get tothe scene of the explosion fast enough," said Dr. Neil Gehrels of NASAGoddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Swift principalinvestigator. "Swift has the unique ability to detect bursts and turnits X-ray and ultraviolet-optical telescopes to the explosion's emberswithin minutes. As such, Swift is detecting new burst details thatmight rewrite theory," Gehrels said.

Swift carries three main instruments: the Burst Alert Telescope(BAT); X-ray Telescope (XRT); and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope(UVOT). Today's announcement is based largely on XRT data. The XRT wasbuilt at Penn State with partners at the Brera Astronomical Observatoryin Italy and the University of Leicester in England.

Swift was launched in November 2004. It is a NASA mission inpartnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Particle Physics andAstronomy Research Council, United Kingdom. Swift is managed byGoddard. Penn State controls science and flight operations from theMission Operations Center in University Park, Pa. The spacecraft wasbuilt in collaboration with national laboratories, universities andinternational partners.

A paper discussing these findings appears online today on ScienceExpress and in the September 9 issue of Science. Burrows is lead authorof the paper.

For more information about this research on the Web, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/watchtheskies/double_burst.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Aeronautics And Space Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "NASA's Swift Satellite Finds Newborn Black Holes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819091826.htm>.
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. (2005, August 23). NASA's Swift Satellite Finds Newborn Black Holes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819091826.htm
National Aeronautics And Space Administration. "NASA's Swift Satellite Finds Newborn Black Holes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050819091826.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

NASA (Aug. 15, 2014) Carbon Observatory’s First Data, ATV-5 Delivers Cargo, Cygnus Departs Station and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins