Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Really dark

Black holes, that is. It's long been inferred that a monster black hole lurked at the center of our galaxy. The evidence is now better than ever. See "Confirmed: a monster black hole at the heart of the Milky Way." A key quote:

New observations by the European Space Observatory (ESO) show clumps of gas swirling around at about 30% of the speed of light on a circular orbit just outside what astronomers conclude is the black hole’s event horizon. 

It’s the first time material has been seen orbiting close to the point of no return – and “a resounding confirmation of the massive black hole paradigm", according to study leader Reinhard Genzel, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Germany.

And then there's this: "Has LIGO Seen Galaxy-Warped Gravitational Waves? Nobel laureate George Smoot claims LIGO has observed amplified signals of black hole mergers from the very distant universe, but LIGO scientists disagree."

(And just as an aside, LIGO has gotten really good. As in, "LIGO upgrade to allow ‘almost daily’ detection of gravitational waves." And that's germane to this post because short of black-hole and/or neutron-star-into-a-black-hole mergers, there aren't a lot of gravitational waves.)

Literally awesome
Of course the coolest black-hole-in-the-news story relates to imaging the super-massive black hole at the heart of the (relatively) nearby Messier 87 galaxy. Doubtless by now you've seen the nearby image many times. But have you read about the young computer scientist who (among many, of course) is chiefly responsible for this feat? See "Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image."

And now I must disappear into the metaphorical black hole of proofreading ...

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