We still don’t understand a lot of things about black holes, which hover at the very edge of our scientific knowledge. We do know that black holes seem to fall into two categories; those that result from the collapse of a single large star and supermassive black holes that have millions of billions of solar masses. So-called intermediate-mass black holes (IMBH) between the two extremes have been elusive — until now. Scientists with the LIGO and VIRGO Scientific Collaboration report spotting an IMBH billions of light-years away thanks to peculiar gravitational waves.
We have a reasonably good understanding of how stellar-mass black holes form. When a star several times larger than the sun runs out of nuclear fuel, its own mass compresses it into a singularity from which not even light can escape. Supermassive black holes are less well-understood, but the leading theory is that they grow from smaller black holes by pulling in matter and merging with other black holes over many eons. These objects are 100,000 solar masses or more with such strong gravity they can anchor a galaxy. Our galaxy has a supermassive black hole in the center known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius A Star).
Scientists have spotted several candidate IMBHs, but the LIGO and VIRGO projects provide the best evidence yet. These instruments use laser interferometry to detect gravitational waves from catastrophic events like the collisions of neutron stars and black holes. Scientists can also trace the waves back to the objects that produced them. Recently, the team detected gravitational wave GW190521, which began its journey toward Earth 7 billion years ago when two mid-sized black holes collided.
According to the study, those black holes were about 85 and 65 times the sun’s mass. That puts them well past the limit for a stellar black hole but far short of a supermassive black hole — they were smack in the middle of no man’s land. The new black hole is about 142 times the sun’s mass, and that’s still an IMBH. By comparison, the supermassive Sagittarius A* is about 4 million solar masses.
This discovery raises a few interesting lines of investigation. Since both of the colliding black holes were larger than a stellar-mass black hole, where did they come from? Could they be the result of past collisions? Will this new IMBH continue growing now that it has enough gravity to vacuum up more material? All we can say right now is these “impossible” black holes do exist. We just don’t know why yet.
Top photo credit: Mark Myers/OzGrav
Artist Mark Johnson to Paint Alligator That Attacked Him in Port St. Lucie, Florida – Newser
Mark Johnson remembers his attacker in vivid detail. “He had green eyes,” he says. “The teeth were pearly white, no stain or anything.” Now, the Florida artist wants to paint the perp—an 8-foot-long alligator that mauled him earlier this month. The attack in Port St. Lucie took place on Sept. 13 while Johnson was taking his dog, Rex, on a morning walk on the shoreline of the canal in his neighborhood. Suddenly, the gator emerged. “He started clamping down really good above my knee, and my shoe was sticking out the base of his jaw,” Johnson, 61, tells Patch.com, adding that there was no makeshift weapon, like a stick or rock, he could use to get the gator off him. Afraid the aggressive reptile might go after Rex, Johnson gave his dog the command to run home, then scrambled to try to break the gator’s grip.
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Johnson, who believes he was seconds away from being dragged into the water, finally broke free by jamming his fingers into the gator’s eyes, causing the animal to release him. An injured Johnson hobbled home, and when his wife—who’d been enjoying a cup of coffee outside and saw the creature swimming in the canal—spotted him coming down the road, she yelled out, “Did you see the gator?” Johnson’s reply: “Yeah, he bit me.” He ended up with about five dozen stitches for his puncture wounds on his leg, plus another five on his finger, which he sliced while sticking it in the gator’s eye socket, per WJXT. Now Johnson has a 30-by-40 canvas on order, which he plans on turning into a “self-portrait” documenting his ordeal, per the Guardian. He’s not sure if he’ll keep it as a reminder or sell it. (Read more alligator stories.)
New Shark Research Tracks Movements of Smooth Hammerheads – DivePhotoGuide.com
Source: Science Daily
With overfishing driving many hammerhead species closer to the brink of extinction, a team of researchers has been focusing on determining the migration patterns of smooth hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna zygaena) in the western Atlantic Ocean in an effort to identify areas and times for management action to help in building back the depleted species.
The team tagged juvenile hammerheads off the US Mid-Atlantic coast using fin-mounted satellite tags and tracked the animals for up to 15 months. The tags reported the sharks’ movement patterns in near real time via a satellite link to the researchers.
“Getting long-term tracks was instrumental in identifying not only clear seasonal travel patterns, but importantly, also the times and areas where the sharks were resident in between their migrations,” said Ryan Logan, first author of the paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science. Logan is a PhD student at Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute and SOSF SRC and the Save Our Seas Foundation Shark Research Center (SOSF SRC).
Logan and his coworkers found that the sharks migrate between two seasonally resident areas: coastal waters off New York in the summer and off North Carolina in the winter. Identifying these habitats is vital for ultimately designating the areas as “Essential Fish Habitat”—with the accompanying limitations on fishing and development.
The high-resolution data also revealed that the hammerheads spent a lot of time in the Mid-Atlantic Shark Area (MASA) in the winter, starting in December. The MASA zone is closed to bottom longline fishing between January 1st and July 31st to protect dusky sharks, so beginning the closure of the zone in December would further reduce the fishing mortality of juvenile smooth hammerheads.
Check out the tracks of various shark species, including smooth hammerheads, at Guy Harvey Research Institute’s dedicated website.
Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians – CNN Philippines
(CNN)— No longer confined to territories here on Earth, Russia has now staked its claim on Venus, saying it is a “Russian planet.”
This week, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, revealed that the country plans to send its own mission to Venus in addition to “Venera-D,” the planned joint mission with the US, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.
Rogozin was addressing reporters at the HeliRussia 2020 exhibition, an international expo of the helicopter industry in Moscow.
“Resuming Venus exploration is on our agenda,” he told reporters Tuesday.
“We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn’t lag behind,” he said.
“Projects of Venus missions are included in the united government program of Russia’s space exploration for 2021-2030.”
The statement came the day after scientists revealed that a gas on Earth called phosphine had also been detected in the atmosphere of Venus.
Venus is similar in size to Earth and is our closest planetary neighbor, but it spins backward compared to other planets.
The study authored by Cardiff University professor Jane Greaves and her colleagues was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The discovery of phosphine on Venus elevates it to an area of interest worth exploring in our solar system alongside the ranks of Mars and “water world” moons like Enceladus and Europa, Seager said.
“Our hoped-for impact in the planetary science community is to stimulate more research on Venus itself, research on the possibilities of life in Venus’ atmosphere, and even space missions focused to find signs of life or even life itself in the Venusian atmosphere,” Seager said.
According to the European Space Agency, the Russians do have significant experience when it comes to Venus.
Its website states: “Between 1967-1984 Venusian studies carried out in Russia were at the forefront of international research into this planet.
“Since then, Russia has still preserved its unique expertise in designing and developing landing craft for Venus and continues to define scientific tasks for those craft.”
This story was first published on CNN.com, “Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians.”
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