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article imageNASA discovers Milky Way's youngest black hole

By Greta McClain     Feb 14, 2013 in Science
Scientists with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered what is believed to be the newest black hole to have formed in the Milky Way galaxy.
On Wednesday, astronomers captured the images of W49B, a supernova remnant located approximately 26,000 light years away from the Earth. At the tender age of one-thousand-years-old, W49B is an infant compared to most black holes that have been discovered. SS433, another black hole located within the Milky Way galaxy, is believed to be between 17,000 - 21,000-years-old.
W49B's age is not the only thing that makes it unique. Black holes are created by astronomical events known as supernovas. A supernova occurs when the nuclear fuel in a star is depleted, causing the core of the star to collapse and eject a massive amount of energy. When the collapse is completed, some supernova create a black hole.
Most supernova's are symmetrical, disbursing materials more or less evenly in all directions. In the case of W49B, material near each of the poles are disbursed at a higher speed than that which is ejected from the equator.
Laura Lopez, a scientist from MIT and lead researcher for the project, told CNET:
"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy. It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't.
Scientists also found that iron was only present in about half of the debris field, while sulfur and silicon could be found throughout. This pattern indicated that the supernova explosion was asymmetrical. The fact that W49B has more of an elongated, barrel-shape, as opposed to a more typical circular shape, is also unusual.
Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, co-author of the study and a researchers from the University of California at Santa Cruz, said:
"In addition to its unusual signature of elements, W49B also is much more elongated and elliptical than most other remnants. This is seen in X-rays and several other wavelengths and points to an unusual demise for this star."
Images of the W49B were taken from X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue and green, radio data from the NSF's Very Large Array in pink, and infrared data from Caltech's Palomar Observatory in yellow.
NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory
NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory
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