Closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth yet

Astronomers have discovered the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever observed. The pair is also closer to each other than any other supermassive black holes spotted together, and will one day merge into one giant black hole. The researchers, led by Karina Voggel of the University of Strasbourg in France, made the … Continue reading Closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth yet

More gravitational waves detected than ever before

Somewhere out there in the universe, neutron stars and black holes regularly collide, causing cosmic ripples in space and time – gravitational waves – to bounce their way across the cosmos to Earth. Now, an international team of researchers, including those from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), have collaborated to … Continue reading More gravitational waves detected than ever before

A new view of distant galaxies

Growing up under the clear night skies of the state of Georgia, in the south-east of the United States, I remember lying in the back of my dad’s pickup truck looking up at the constellations, and even from that very early age of nine or 10 there was just something so fundamental and wonderful about … Continue reading A new view of distant galaxies

Black holes belch out intergalactic smoke

Astronomers have just watched the evolution of streamers of gas around an active black hole – and they look a bit like the smoke produced by a volcanic eruption. The team used the ultra-sensitive Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands, as well as the Spektr-RG space observatory, to study a system of 20 galaxies called … Continue reading Black holes belch out intergalactic smoke

Black holes exert ‘quantum pressure’ on their environment

Black holes aren’t as single-minded as we thought. It turns out their quantum behaviour adds a new, recalcitrant dimension to their monstrous character. In a first-of-its-kind discovery, UK physicists have found that black holes exert quantum pressure on their environment. We know black holes are voracious cosmic monsters that operate at nature’s very extremes. They … Continue reading Black holes exert ‘quantum pressure’ on their environment

When gravitational waves and dark matter collide

It’s hard to resist any physics story that starts with Albert Einstein. More than a century ago – in 1916, to be precise – the great theorist suggested that gravitational waves could be a natural outcome of his general theory of relativity. He was right: gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself. … Continue reading When gravitational waves and dark matter collide

Black hole gulps down neutron star

For the first time, scientists have detected gravitational waves from a black hole swallowing a neutron star – and not just once, but twice. The detections were made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US and the Virgo gravitational-wave observatory in Italy, which first captured ripples in space-time reverberating out from a … Continue reading Black hole gulps down neutron star

Really big black holes

Dying stars can form black holes up to five times larger than once thought possible, scientists have discovered. Black holes form when the cores of dying stars explode. The power of the blast blows away the stars’ outer layers in supernova explosions that briefly emit more light than entire galaxies. But most of the material … Continue reading Really big black holes

Astronomers find ‘Goldilocks’ black hole

Last year, scientists used gravitational waves to detect an elusive intermediate-mass black hole for the first time. Now, Australian astronomers have spotted another – this time using gamma-ray bursts. Black holes are formed when massive stars reach the end of their lives and collapse under their own gravity. But they aren’t all the same – stellar mass … Continue reading Astronomers find ‘Goldilocks’ black hole

Magnetic fields mapped around black hole

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has just snapped a new image of the massive object lurking at the centre of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy – this time, in polarised light. Astronomers think this is exciting stuff, because it’s the first time that polarisation – a signature of magnetic fields – has been measured so close to … Continue reading Magnetic fields mapped around black hole

More massive, more problems

The first black hole ever discovered is more massive than we thought, according to an international team of astronomers. Cygnus X-1 is a binary system consisting of a supergiant star and an enormous stellar-mass black hole, formed after the collapse of another giant star tens of thousands of years ago.  Fun Cygnus X-1 facts The … Continue reading More massive, more problems