Friday, January 11, 2008

Black Holes

Imagine running away from a stellar nuclear home, experiencing life anew by careening into wallflower others while gorging on everything within reach, then dancing the excess off in a manic spinning fashion as the less brave watch, still solemnly wedded for eternity to their first stationary positron partner. Across this Universe, black holes are exhibiting interesting and pulsating behavior patterns. Neutron star fights and black holes create an aftermath of anti-matter that spontaneously combusts upon meeting matter. It is a version of West Side Story playing out in Space with the outer limits of astrophysics being tested at each juncture, as space itself shifts and becomes reshaped by massive black holes. (Photo NASA/Ohio)
"We think these monster black holes are spinning close to the limit set by Einstein's theory of relativity, which means that they can drag material around them at close to the speed of light," said Rodrigo Nemmen, a visiting graduate student at Penn State University, and lead author of a paper on the new results presented at American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.

"Extremely fast spin might be very common for large black holes," said co-investigator Richard Bower of Durham University. "This might help us explain the source of these incredible jets that we see stretching for enormous distances across space." (Photo credit: Credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al)
A supersized black hole is on an order of magnitude unimaginable, 18,000,000,000,000 (long form number) times larger than our Sun. Technically, black holes are invisible, but the gravitational effects on everything around them is observable. Or to put it in a nutshell, anything that gets too close to a black hole goes immediately into the, now you see it, now you don't category eons faster than it took me to type that. Sheer presence of black holes that size has spawned a new interest based on a burst phenomena that happens once every twelve years.

Quasars are thought to be powered by gas falling into giant black holes boasting millions or billions of solar masses. Though smaller than the solar system, a quasar can outshine an entire galaxy.

This particular quasar has a regularly pulsing light signal with two major pulses every 12 years. The first two pulses were observed in the year 1994-1995, and the first one of the next set in 2005. The observations helped astronomers refine their computer models, predicting the next pulse would come on Sept. 13, 2007.

Sure enough, right on schedule OJ287 sent out a light pulse on that date. No other pulses of that kind showed up during September or October, indicating, the astronomers say, the binary black-hole model was correct.

Closer to home here in the Milky Way Galaxy, black holes are renegades that are causing sudden interest. Scientists are discovering thin galaxies are attracting the decidedly more Rubenesque black holes. The Milky Way is featuring a Buddha belly making astrophysicists review projections for the size of black holes here at 'home'.

More fantastic reading about the cosmos is in anything written by Neil deGrasse Tyson or for under $10 discover Adam G Freeman's technically rich, Anti-Matter and Black Holes in a 2007 paperback.

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