Youngest Milky Way black hole studied

Feb. 13, 2013 at 4:25 PM

GREENBELT, Md., Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A rare type of cosmic explosion may have created the youngest black hole yet discovered in our Milky Way galaxy, U.S. astronomers say.

A highly distorted supernova remnant called W49B is only about a thousand years old as seen from Earth, they said.

It has caught the attention of astronomers because of its shape; supernova explosions that destroy massive stars are generally symmetrical, with material blasting away more or less evenly in all directions.

However, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows W49B's exploding star shot more material out from its poles than from its equator, a NASA release reported Wednesday.

And whereas most of the time massive stars that collapse into supernovas leave a dense spinning core called a neutron star, the Chandra observations revealed no evidence for a such a star, suggesting an even more exotic object -- a black hole --might have formed in the explosion, astronomers said.

A study of W49B has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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