Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Newborn Black Holes

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Newborn Black Holes

Article excerpt

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.

These black holes are born in massive star explosions (see image). An initial blast obliterates the star, yet the chaotic black hole activity appears to reenergize the explosion several times in just a few minutes. This is a dramatically different view of star death, one that entails multiple explosive outbursts and not just a single bang, as previously thought.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"First comes a blast of gamma rays followed by intense pulses of x-rays. The energies involved are much greater than anyone expected," says David Burrows of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).

These gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known. They are forerunners of a massive star explosion called a hypernova, which is bigger than a supernova. Using Swift, scientists are finally able to see gamma-ray bursts within minutes after the trigger, instead of hours or days, and are privy to newborn black hole activity. …

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