A black hole in our backyard
NASA may have identified the nearest black hole in our galaxy.
Man has been wonderstruck by the sky since he first thought to look up. Glimpsing celestial bodies, even with the naked eye, can be awe-inspiring whether you have a child’s curiosity or the wisdom of the ages. But it takes a scientist to look up there and get excited about what can’t be seen.
It was not the something but the nothing observed that told a young astrophysicist she might be looking at a black hole.
Laura Lopez knew that when a massive star is destroyed by a supernova explosion, it usually leaves behind a neutron star; a dense, spinning core made of the star material that isn’t blasted away. But while studying the supernova remnant W49B at NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory (some objects in space can only be observed by X-ray), she saw no evidence of a neutron star. The very unusual way in which this particular star met its end indicates that it may have left behind an even more anomalous object: a black hole.
More from MSN Living: 40 time-saving tips
Researchers have discovered black holes in our Milky Way galaxy before but rarely one so close to home, and never one so young.
Lopez was initially drawn to study W49B when she came across a theory that the remnant was caused by a gamma-ray burst, an extreme kind of supernova that’s been observed in stellar explosions billions of light years away. But W49B is only 26,000 light years away — just a few neighborhoods from Earth, in galactic terms. W49B is also understood to be just 1,000 years old as seen from Earth; that is, a thousand years not counting the time it took for its light to travel here. Though this exceptional supernova remnant probably did not originate from a gamma-ray burst as first imagined, the knowledge that it’s both nearby and recent presents an unprecedented opportunity for astrophysical research.
More from MSN Living: 7 easy ways to get better sleep
Lopez, a NASA Einstein Fellow and Pappalardo Fellow in Physics at MIT, is the lead author of a paper on the possible black-hole discovery due to appear in an astrophysics journal this weekend. For those laypeople willing to make their way through a little space jargon, Lopez has boiled down the astronomically complex science behind her finding in a guest blog for NASA.
Bing: See photos of black holes.
Sources: NASA, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Cornell University Library
Photo: Marco Lorenz/Getty Images
inspire: live a better life
Research could mean more effective treatment for human disorders.
An entry a day might keep the doctor away (or at least the shrink).
One woman's shout-outs to daily moments of joy — and how to cultivate them.
Volunteering (and these other rituals) might be just as good as exercise when it comes to extending your life.
Use these tricks to set a better tone for the rest of the week.
In September, I'll turn 38. I'm at the age now where, when people ask how old I am, it takes me a minute to remember. I don't know if that's because I've already been 37 different ages and it's hard to keep straight which one I am now, or if it's because I'm in denial, or if it's because I am going senile. Maybe a combination of all of the above. Regardless, my 30s have flown by and soon they will be but a memory. So, in an effort to preserve the memory I have left (or at least keep a record of it), and to celebrate what has been an amazing decade so far, here are 30 things that have happened to me in my 30s (and will probably happen to you too):
Our best health and fitness tips including the one move that tones all, berry news, and more.
Who just wants to stand around and watch the red and gold leaves slowly fall from their tree branches to the ground as we move from summer to fall? Instead, take in the changing seasons while you're on the move.
Here's some tips to get to happiness going forward in your life.
People 60 to 82 did best on cognitive tasks before 10:30am.
Lucille Ball was born in 1911, and though we lost her long ago, her legacy as America's favorite redhead lives on through the timeless classic, "I Love Lucy." People of all generations still enjoy Lucy's antics as much as they did over 60 years ago when the show first premiered.