With increasing ability to look far beyond our Milky Way Galaxy using the Hubble and Chandra orbiting telescopes and the Swift Satellite, scientists at NASA are learning more about black holes and other stellar phenomenon. Earlier this year, the Swift satellite captured what could be the first evidence of a very large black hole devouring a neutron star.
"A neutron star is the core remains of an exploded star that was once about 10 to 25 times more massive than our sun. It contains about a sun's worth of mass crammed into a sphere only about 12 miles across. A black hole is the core remains of an even larger exploded star, over 25 times the mass of the sun."
Is it just me? Because this stuff blows me away. Not just that we caught this event with our instruments, but more that we have spent enough time looking at "what's out there" that a scientist can toss off a sentence like
"Supporting this merger scenario is the fact that the GRB 050724 burst took place in the outskirts of an old, elliptical galaxy filled with neutron stars and black holes."
Oh yeah, that old elliptical galaxy... on the outskirts no less.
Few of us understand the forces involved when a black hole "eats" a star, but I believe it's good to fund programs to learn about this stuff. Someone on our small planet should be trying to understand what's happening in our occasionally violent universe. Plus, the pictures are usually worth viewing...
Here then, is the report from NASA:
GREENBELT, Md., Dec. 14 /PRNewswire/ — Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite have found evidence of a black hole swallowing a neutron star. The discovery is reported in the December 15 issue of Nature.
This rare event, seen on July 24, created a gamma-ray burst that lasted only for a few milliseconds. However, observations of the lingering afterglow provided evidence of what could have been the demise of a neutron star orbiting a black hole.