Supermassive black holes are the most destructive force in the Universe, with a compact energy source of enormous strength and a
mass of an order of magnitude between 105 and 1010 (hundreds of thousands and tens of billions) of solar masses!
They are so bizarre
that until recently scientists did not believe they existed.
But they do exist and are believed to be the engines that power nuclear activity in galaxies. They are dangerous; they could fill a
whole solar system! It's a power of unbelievable proportions that causes space time distortions. Black holes alter spacetime.
A few years ago, NASA scientists using the Swift satellite conducted the first all-sky survey and gathered more than 200 supermassive
black holes (Active Galactic Nuclei, or AGN) in the local universe.
Baby Black Hole
This is an artist's impression of a growing supermassive black hole located in the early Universe, showing a
disk of gas rotating around the central object that generates copious amounts of radiation. This gas is destined to be
consumed by the black hole. The black hole's mass is less than one hundredth of the mass it will have when the Universe
reaches its present day age of about 13.7 billion years. Credits: Chandra/ NASA
"We are confident that we are seeing every active, supermassive black hole within 400 million light years of Earth," said Jack Tueller of NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., who led the effort.
Recently, astronomers of University of California, Berkeley, have discovered the largest black holes to date - two monsters with masses equivalent to 10
billion suns that are threatening to consume anything, even light, within a region five times the size of our solar system.
These black holes are at the
centers of two galaxies more than 300 million light years from Earth
To date, approximately 63 supermassive black holes have been found lurking in the cores of nearby galaxies.
The largest for more than three decades was a 6.3 billion solar mass black hole in the center of the nearby galaxy M87.
They produce energy from matter extremely efficiently.
According to astronomical calculations, matter that falls into a black hole can emit an amount of energy equivalent to converting
as much as 30% of its mass into energy!
Just think about it, for comparison, nuclear fusion converts less than 1% of the masses of nuclei into energy.
With the exception of supermassive black holes, nothing seems capable of producing such tremendous amount of energy.
Click on image to enlarge
The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way is known as Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A).
The fuel for this black hole comes from powerful winds blown off dozens of massive young stars that are concentrated nearby.
These stars are located a relatively large distance away from Sgr A*, where the gravity of the black hole is weak,
and so their high-velocity winds are difficult for the black hole to capture and swallow. Scientists have previously calculated
that Sgr A* should consume only about 1% of the fuel carried in the winds. Credits: Chandra X-ray Observatory
Astronomers think that the cores of virtually every galaxy contain a supermassive black hole of a million solar masses or more.
Our Milky Way also has one, Sagittarius A (Sgr A ), the most energetic object in the Milky Way about with about 4.3 million solar masses.
Compared to other black holes of similar size, Sgr A was rather dormant - until recently.
Since 2002, astronomers observed the black hole's quiet neighborhood through the Very Large Telescope. Now, Sagittarius A wakes up.
A dusty gas cloud, three times the mass of Earth, and with a highly eccentric orbit, is falling into the accretion zone of our black hole.
It will be closest to the black hole in 2013 with a distance of 40 billion kilometers.
For the next few years the cloud will be consumed by our black hole. Nothing can escape a black hole's gravity, not even light.
This composite image shows the positions of the gas cloud in 2002, 2007, and 2011 marked in colour.
The cross indicates the position of the black hole in the galactic centre. Credits: MPE
"The event will become much more dramatic in the near future ... the cloud now accelerates quickly towards the massive black hole,"
Stefan Gillessen, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany said.
"Only two stars so far have come that close to the black hole since we started our observations in 1992," says Stefan Gillessen.
"The stars passed unharmed through their closest approach; the crucial difference to them is that the gas cloud will be completely
ripped apart by the tidal forces around the black hole."
The cloud is expected to break up in 2013.
Click on image to enlarge
Black hole mergers produce copious gravitational waves, sometimes for years, as the black holes approach each other and collide.
Researchers crunched Einstein's theory of general relativity on the Columbia supercomputer at the NASA Ames Research Center to create a
three-dimensional simulation of merging black holes. This was the largest astrophysical calculation ever performed on a NASA supercomputer. Credit: Henze, NASA
Only a few percent of these black holes appear to be active and violent consumers of all possible matter around them. Naturally, there is
no instance in which a black hole actually has been observed in the center of a galaxy. They emit no radiation, therefore no direct
detection of a remote black hole is possible, only its great gravitational influence can be detected.
What happens when two supermassive monster black holes move dangerously close to each other and collide? Nobody has witnessed a
collision of black holes yet, but such extremely violent cosmic event should generate gravity waves of sufficient amplitude to detect on earth.
Click on image to enlarge
Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory in Livingston, Louisiana. Each of the two arms is four-kilometer-long.LIGO was designed and constructed by a team of scientists from Caltech and MIT. In an effort to detect passing gravitational waves,
researchers bounce high-power laser beams back and forth in each arm. Passing gravitational waves alter the length between the mirrors
in the LIGO arms, which the lasers detect. Credit: LIGO Livingston Observatory
The Columbia Supercomputer at NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Facility at Ames Research Center has performed a series of simulations of gravitational waves.
Click on image to enlarge
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)
Sensitive interferometer forms part of a gravity wave detector inside an isolation tank. Credit: LIGO Livingston Observatory
Laser interferometric detectors, such as LIGO, GEO600 and Virgo are the most sophisticated black hole hunters detecting gravitational waves!
Their goal is to seeks ripples in the fabric of space and time.
MessageToEagle.com via NASA, California Institute of Technology
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Unusual Sounds From Space Reported Worldwide - What Are They?
For almost a year now people from different countries have reported hearing strange sound from the sky. Now scientists propose that what people are
hearing is only a small fraction of the actual power of these sounds!
What are these sounds? What is causing them? Are they in anyway related to our Sun and the biggest solar flares, do they come from Earth's inner core
or can they be attributed to an unknown an astronomical phenomenon? Are they in anyway dangerous to our planet?
Unknown Force "Intelligently" Put Together Miranda Moon - with video
What could melt this moon in this extremely cold region of the solar system?
Voyager 2 passed Miranda’s strange world at a distance of only 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) and
sent back to Earth very detailed images of its "tortured" surface.
Nothing like them has been seen anywhere else in the solar system! Did a type III civilization conduct some "experiments" on Miranda?