Scientists Witness The Birth of a Black Hole For the First Time

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Almost 200 million light years away a black hole formed after a star collapsed and scientists think that they saw it last year, on 17 June.

The mysterious cosmic explosion was detected by the twin telescopes in Hawaii which looked at the Hercules constellation. The light flared up and then vanished, leaving scientists amazed.

A team from different institutions partnered up to combine imaging resources, hard x-rays and radio waves to learn what the telescopes captured. The results showed that the telescope captured the moment when a star collapsed and formed either a neutron star or a black hole.

The object is called AT2018cow or “The Cow,” and thanks to the debris that swirled around the event horizon, the telescope could see the bright glow. This event will help astronomers learn more about how a neutron star or a black hole is created, explained the leader of the research, Raffaella Margutti (Northwestern University):

We think that ‘The Cow’ is the formation of an accreting black hole or neutron star. We know from theory that black holes and neutron stars form when a star dies, but we’ve never seen them right after they are born. Never.

Challenging the “Notions of Stellar Death”

Margutti explained that The Cow was first believed to be a supernova, but these observations have “challenged our current notions of stellar death.” The bright light was 10-100 times more powerful than a supernova, and it disappeared much faster than in other star explosions.

The object lost its brightness in just 16 days, which regarding time in the universe, two weeks is in the blink of an eye:

We knew right away that this source went from inactive to peak luminosity within just a few days. That was enough to get everybody excited because it was so unusual and, by astronomical standards, it was very close by.

Research on the chemical composition showed that it had hydrogen and helium, and because it ejected very little material, astronomers could look right into the middle of the object which could be a neutron star or a bright black hole.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.