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NASA’s NuSTAR Captures Black Hole Bending Light

NuStarBlack holes are terrifying and awesome — which pretty much sums up everything about space itself. They do all kinds of crazy things, like spinning around at half the speed of light and launching stars. They also have the capability of bending light, space, and time to their will, which makes them something like the bad-ass mega-villains of the galaxy. Now their antics have been captured by NASA’s NuSTAR telescope.

NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) is to black holes what Rosetta is to comets — a telescope designed specifically to find and harvest data about these cosmic phenomena. NuSTAR’s been in space for just over two years, having completed its primary mission and moving on to an extended mission that involves continued exploration of black holes and pulsars and what they call a “general observer program,” which will allow astronomers not affiliated with NuSTAR to make suggestions for its use, and potentially use it themselves.

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Black Hole At The Milky Way’s Center Will Soon Devour A Gas Cloud

SGR A*For something that doesn’t exist — at least, not the way Stephen Hawking originally postulated — black holes certainly are generating a lot of space news these days. These cosmic badasses sure are busy, and as usual, they’re doing terrifying and awesome stuff, including annihilating gas clouds and, in the process, growing skins that look like fractals.

As with many galaxies, there’s a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and apparently, it’s about to lay waste to the G2 space cloud. Astronomers first identified the space cloud, as well as its fate, in 2011, and they’ve been waiting excitedly for the black hole to gobble it up ever since. The black hole, named Sagittarius A* (that’s A-star), has a mass four million times greater than that of the sun. The gas cloud is tiny by comparison — about three times as massive as Earth, and scientists predicted that the two cosmic entities would begin their dance in March of this year.

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Scientists Believe A Black Hole Just Launched A Star Cluster Toward Earth

StarBeing able to report science news of the magnitude that we did earlier this week is incredible. Science geeks all over the world speculated rabidly and awaited Monday’s announcement like it was Christmas, which it was, and then some. The only problem with such news — and I’m not complaining, mind you — is that the science news that comes after it may seem a bit less momentous. Not every discovery can be the Holy Grail, though, and of course every discovery about our planet and our universe matters. In the grand scheme of things, we still know far, far less than what we don’t know, and there are even more things we don’t know we don’t know. Such is the awesomeness of space, which has given us a few other amazing stories this week, including the news that there’s a star cluster currently barreling through the cosmos in our direction.

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Supermassive Black Hole Spins At Half The Speed Of Light

black holeWhen I picture them in my mind, black holes are often a swirling vortex of nothing. But I’ll admit that I didn’t actually know how much or how fast they can spin, until now. Turns out there’s a huge black hole about six billion light-years away that’s spinning at half the speed of light.

In a paper published in Nature, astronomers detail how they used the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Hubble Telescope to observe x-rays being emitted by the black hole. That examination helped them identify the rate at which matter fell into it, which facilitated their calculations of the speed at which the black hole spins. The region emitting the x-rays is about three times wider than the radius of the center, or event horizon, from which no matter can escape—the size of that region relative to the size of the event horizon indicates how quickly it rotates.

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Stephen Hawking Says There Are No Black Holes

black holeDidn’t Stephen Hawking help create the black hole theory to which most scientists ascribe? What’s going on here? Either this is a wacky case of time travel or the great physicist has changed his mind. He’s allowed, isn’t he? In fact, now he calls his old black hole theory his “biggest blunder.” Everyone makes mistakes, dude. Don’t even worry about it.

In a paper published online, Hawking describes an impasse: that if we’re right about general relativity and quantum theory, then a black hole can’t actually be comprised of an event horizon, the border beyond which nothing can escape. According to classical theory, “there is no escape from a black hole,” says Hawking, but quantum theory “enables energy and information to escape from a black hole.” The physicist believes that a complete and accurate description of the process demands another theory, one that accounts for gravity as well as other cosmic forces, but scientists are still looking for that explanation.

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The Universe May Have Been Formed From A Black Hole. Maybe.

Black holeSpace enthusiasts, listen up: some astrophysicists believe that the Big Bang may be bunk. You didn’t expect that theory to stick around forever, did you? It may yet, but it now has another theory to contend with—that the Universe was formed by a star collapsing into a black hole.

The Big Bang theory (sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not and won’t be referring to the show) essentially posits that the Universe was created by a singularity, or an explosion from a point of infinite density. The thing is, no one knows what caused the Big Bang—no computation or physical law (that we know of) can account for it, especially since time didn’t exist before the Universe’s creation. But it’s a question that has lingered on the minds of some scientists. Niayesh Afshordi of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics says, “For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity.” Oh man, I hope that’s true. And even if it’s not, I’m going to cling to that idea, or at least to that image.

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