Black holes devour nearby stars and spew brilliant X-rays during outburst phase

Using data collected from the International Space Station (ISS), physicists have been investigating an explosion of X-ray light that originated from a black hole in an outburst phase. The data suggests that during an outburst, black holes consume huge amounts of stellar material and shrink in size by a factor of ten.

The data was gathered from a black hole named MAXI J1820+070 which was detected on March 11, 2018 using the Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) instrument aboard the ISS. The MAXI is an X-ray detection system which monitors for X-ray outbursts like the ones given off by black holes in their outburst phase. “This boomingly bright black hole came on the scene, and it was almost completely unobscured, so we got a very pristine view of what was going on,” Jack Steiner, a research scientist in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, said in a statement.

An outburst is a phase in the evolution of a black hole in which it emits extremely energetic bursts of X-rays while absorbing vast amounts of gas and dust from a nearby star. As the black hole consumes matter, its corona — the highly energized electrons which surround the black hole — shrinks massively from around 100 kilometers in diameter (62 miles) to just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in a period of a month.

Once the MAXI instrument observed the outburst, scientists turned to another instrument aboard the ISS, NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) to obtain more details about the amount and timing of incoming X-ray photons. When a black hole consumes large amounts of matter, this material settles in the accretion disk and generates heat as it spins closer to the black hole. When the material reaches temperatures of millions of degrees, the energy shines out as X-rays.

black holes outburst x rays mit shrinking corona 0
X-ray echoes, mapped by NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), revealed changes to the accretion disk and corona of black hole MAXI J1820+070. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

“This is the first time that we’ve seen this kind of evidence that it’s the corona shrinking during this particular phase of outburst evolution,” Steiner said. “The corona is still pretty mysterious, and we still have a loose understanding of what it is. But we now have evidence that the thing that’s evolving in the system is the structure of the corona itself.”

Gaming

The Teslasuit could turn Black Mirror’s terrifying ‘Playtest’ into a reality

We spoke with Teslasuit co-founder Dimitri Mikhalchuk about VR gaming at CES 2019. With all its features, the future of the Teslasuit and virtual reality look bright. And it also sounds a bit like a Black Mirror episode.
Gaming

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ will make Blackout mode free to play this week

Treyarch and Activision are offering Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode as a free trial download for a limited time. The mode will be available from January 17 through January 24.
Emerging Tech

Brightest quasar ever seen discovered by Hubble, may be star-producing machine

The brightest quasar even seen has been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope using a technique called strong gravitational lensing. The quasar is enormously energetic and may be producing thousands of stars per year.
Emerging Tech

Scientists debate mysterious flash of light in space, known as ‘The Cow’

On June 16, 2018 there was an unusual flash in the sky which puzzled astronomers around the world. NASA researchers have been collecting data on the event and have shared two competing theories for what could have caused it.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.