The means by which scary black holes at the centers of most galaxies suck up gas from their surroundings by overcoming centrifugal force has now been pinned down by astronomers.
The means by which scary black holes at the centers of most galaxies suck up gas from their surroundings by overcoming centrifugal force has now been pinned down by astronomers. Two researchers found that stars take swirling gases towards a galaxy’s central point, bringing them close enough for the black hole to gobble them up. "Although supermassive black holes wield an enormous tug on their immediate surroundings, astronomers have been uncertain how these astrophysical beasts manage to pull in the large amounts of gas they absorb from their host galaxies. A key problem is that gas swirling rapidly around a black hole has enormous angular momentum, which creates a centrifugal force that can slow or halt the material from edging toward the abyss. Generally, black holes easily swallow up gas that approaches to less than a third of a light-year from the galactic center, because the black hole’s own magnetic field acts like a brake, slowing down the rotational motion of the gas and causing it to fall in."
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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