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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on May 9, 2005 22:50:18 GMT -6
Creation of Black Hole Detected Today
Astronomers photographed a cosmic event this morning which they believe is the birth of a black hole, SPACE.com has learned.
A faint visible-light flash moments after a high-energy gamma-ray burst likely heralds the merger of two dense neutron stars to create a relatively low-mass black hole, said Neil Gehrels of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It is the first time an optical counterpart to a very short-duration gamma-ray burst has ever been detected.
Gamma rays are the most energetic form of radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum, which also includes X-rays, light and radio waves.
The merger occurred 2.2 billion light-years away, so it actually took place 2.2 billion years ago and the light just reached Earth this morning.
The first gamma-ray burst was detected by accident in 1967. It was found by U.S. satellites deployed to monitor possible violations of the nuclear test ban treaty. Researchers now know that one erupts roughly every day somewhere in the cosmos. Most originate many billions of light years away.