Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover a ring of black holes or neutron stars in the galaxy AM 0644-741 in the constellation Volans. While it doesn’t have the magical power to rule over mankind like in Tolkein’s book, this ring of black holes covers an area three times larger than the Milky Way, making it the real Lord of the Rings!
Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Lord of the Rings: The Two Galaxies
Space holds plenty of dangers, from pitch-black asteroid fields where giant rocks are hurtling past at 50,000 kilometers an hour to exploding stars more energetic than a billion nuclear bombs.
But one of the scariest things in space is a black hole.
These invisible monsters lurk in space waiting to gobble up anything that gets too close — literally anything. They’ll eat rocks, stars, even light! This makes the discovery of a giant ring of black holes pretty scary.
Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to discover a ring of black holes or neutron stars in the galaxy AM 0644-741 in the constellation Volans.
Go to Google and do an image search for AM 0644. Doesn’t matter what’s capitalized of if there are spaces there. Just search for am0644. Then choose the square photo from the Chandra team to see what I’m talking about.
The galaxy hiding this dark secret can be seen on the lower right hand side of the photo. The black holes are scattered throughout the bright blue and pink ring around the galaxy.
While it doesn’t have the magical power to rule over mankind like in Tolkein’s book, this ring of black holes covers an area three times larger than the Milky Way, making it the real Lord of the Rings!
The ring was formed when one galaxy crashed into another. The other galaxy is likely the one in the lower left of the photo.
The violent collision sent a shockwave rippling through the galaxy, pushing material outwards and in so doing it triggered a huge amount of star formation by compressing the gas in the galaxy.
A few tens of millions of years after the birth of the new stars, the larger ones went supernova and turned into black holes and neutron stars.
But black holes suck in light, right? Making them invisible. So how did we find them?
Each pinkish blob in the Chandra photo shows an area that’s shooting out bright X-rays. While we can’t see the X-rays with our own eyes, we’ve built space telescopes that can take photographs of them for us.
The super bright X-rays in the picture are coming from black holes or the super dense neutron stars that are busy sucking material off of a companion star.
As the material falls towards the black hole or neutron star it forms a spinning accretion disk. The disk becomes super hot and X-rays pour out into the cosmos.
But don’t worry, this galaxy and its black holes are about 300 million light years away. Black holes are, all things considered, rather rare and not something to be scared of.
Not only are the black holes not a threat to us, this discovery can actually help us learn what happens when galaxies collide!
Hey Here’s A Cool Fact:
The large pink blob inside this ring galaxy and seen to the right of the supermassive central black hole is actually much farther away than the ring galaxy and isn’t part of the ring at all.
It’s the active nucleus of a different galaxy altogether. Instead of 300 million light years away, it’s 9.1 billion light years away!
Tricksy AGN Hobbitses!
Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!