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article imageScientists witness birth of black hole for first time

By Subir Ghosh     Nov 16, 2010 in Science
Astronomers, for the first time, believe they have witnessed the birth of a black hole. The black hole is believed to be a remnant of a supernova, 50 million light years from Earth, which was spotted by an amateur astronomer in 1979.
NASA announced this on Monday. According to NASA researchers, although the information they have collected is consistent with the birth of a baby black hole, they cannot rule out other possibilities. "If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed," said Daniel Patnaude of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts, who led the study.
The supernova, called SN 1979C, was a mega-star about 20 times greater than the sun that collapsed in upon itself before creating a black hole, a gravitational force so strong that not even light can escape. Since there is no visual clues about a black hole, the phenomenon was spotted owing to a steady glow of X-ray radiation detected by US and European orbital observatories from 1995 to 2007.
The discovery will give scientists a view of how a black hole develops from infancy, NASA said. It would also become easier to know how huge stars explode, which ones give birth to black holes or neutron stars and how many black holes there could be in our galaxy and elsewhere.
Many new black holes have been discovered in the distant universe, but all were seen because of a signature blast of gamma-ray radiation, known as gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs. SN 1979C, however, is being described as being different since it is closer to Earth and belongs to a class of supernova that is unlikely to be associated with GRB. The discovery is also being seen as a stroke of luck, since it usually takes decades of X-ray observations would be needed to confirm the incident.
More about Black hole, Supernova, NASA
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