Saturday, September 10, 2011

Saturday Video: Supermassive black holes

by Salman Hameed

A few months ago, astronomers caught signs of a supermassive black hole swallowing as star. These black holes reside at the centers of galaxies (at least in most big spiral and elliptical galaxies) and are huge in terms of mass. They can range from a million to a billion times the mass of our Sun. Our own galaxy, has a supermassive black hole - but just like our ordinary Sun and our ordinary galaxy, this black hole is on the wimpy side (about a million solar masses). But of course, exciting things happen when things get too close to the black holes - as is the case of the news of a supermassive black hole swallowing a star. No need to worry - this particular galaxy is over 4 billion light years away. But the thing to remember is that the material does not directly goes into a black hole, but rather it forms an accretion disk, where it gets heated up to millions of degrees, before falling into the black hole. Sometimes some of the material also gets funneled into jet. In the instance of this particular black hole, astronomers have detected the center of a distant light up and form a jet, and the most likely explanation is material from a star falling onto the black hole. Here is a short animation showing that:

So for this Saturday, here is a short documentary (about 18 minutes) on supermassive black holes:

1 comment:

Akbar said...

Black Hole is an example of one of those phenomena which were purely discovered on a piece of paper yet we know they are there, because if they aren't there, that is going to be even more mind boggling. This is entirely different from the basic mode of discovering nature by observations through senses. Should human intellect be defined as a form of virtual sense, may be psychologists and philosophers can tell. And not to forget, most of these feats of human intelligence were achieved before the space age or computer age began, even much well before the internet (and even iPhone, iPad, and facebook :-) )

- Not sent from my facebook application for iPhone.