Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big Discovery: Tiniest Black Hole

Posted By on Sat, Dec 17, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Artists rendering of x-ray emissions from a black hole
  • NASA
  • Artist's rendering of x-ray emissions from a black hole.

A NASA satellite has detected what astronomers said was a "heartbeat" of what could be the smallest known black hole. The star-sucker could weigh less than three times the mass of the sun, placing it near the minimum mass required for a black hole to be stable.

The NASA team used the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite to identify the black hole.

"Just as the heart rate of a mouse is faster than an elephant's, the heartbeat signals from these black holes scales according to their masses," said Diego Altamirano, an astrophysicist at the University of Amesterdam, who worked on the NASA project.

The heartbeat was referring to the intermittent X-ray bursts as gas is sucked from stars, forming a disc around the black hole, where it's heated by friction to millions of degrees, hot enough to emit X-rays.

Astronomers have named the new discovery IGR J1091-3624.

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