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Birth of a Black Hole or Neutron Star Captured for the First Time

12 Jan 2019, 23:56 UTC
Birth of a Black Hole or Neutron Star Captured for the First Time
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A Northwestern University-led international team of astronomers is getting closer to understanding the mysterious bright object that burst in the northern sky this summer, dubbed AT2018cow or ‘The Cow.’With the help of W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii and the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy’s ATLAS twin telescopes, the multi-institutional team now has evidence that they likely captured the exact moment a star collapsed to form a compact object, such as a black hole or neutron star.The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow.The research, which will be appearing in The Astrophysical Journal, was announced today during a press conference at the 233rd Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle. This rare event will help astronomers better understand the physics at play within the first moments of the creation of a black hole or neutron star.“Based on its X-ray and UV emission, ‘The Cow’ may appear to have been caused by a black hole devouring a white dwarf. But further observations of other wavelengths across the spectrum led to our interpretation that ‘The Cow’ is actually the formation of an accreting black hole or neutron star,” said lead author ...

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