Scientists Think They Have Captured the Birth of a Black Hole

By Jesus Diaz on at

This stunningly trippy object is W49B, a supernova remnant 26,000 light years away from Earth. It's just a thousand yeas old, which in cosmological terms is not even a heartbeat in the life of a human. It may also be the birth place of a newborn black hole, the youngest ever detected in the galaxy.

Scientists created the image using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue and green), radio data from the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (pink), and infrared data from Caltech's Palomar Observatory (yellow). And they are a bit puzzled about it, trying to know how this thing formed. According to their study, its barrel shape in "X-rays and several other wavelengths point to an unusual demise for this star."

The supernova is highly distorted, with material "near the poles of the doomed rotating star  ejected at a much higher speed than material emanating from its equator." Usually, supernova explosions are symmetrical, like this one below, called SN1006:

Scientists Think They Have Captured the Birth of a Black Hole

Obviously, W49B is nothing like this. So what is deforming the supernova remnant in this strange way? Usually, stars that go supernova turn into heavily dense neutron stars. But this time, after closely examining it, scientists found no evidence of such a star. And that's why they believe we are looking at the moment a black hole forms. [NASA Marshall Space Center via NASA]