Galactic maws: Two gigantic black holes discovered in neighboring galaxies


Two black holes, some of the most enigmatic space-time anomalies in existence in the Universe, have been discovered lurking behind enormous clouds of gas in nearby galaxies.

The objects were detected by NASA’s orbiting observatory NuSTAR, which picked up X-ray radiation emitted by light as it becomes trapped in the inescapable pull of the black hole.

These aberrations of time and space were concealed behind enormous clouds of gas, like monsters lurking behind a curtain.

A black hole is an anomaly created when a celestial body, usually a star, runs out of fuel and collapses unto itself under the force of gravity. Eventually, gargantuan amounts of matter are compressed into a relatively small area of space, which creates a super-dense region of space with such colossal gravitational pull that not even light can escape. It is because of this trait that black holes are only revealed through special equipment and by observing the surrounding space.

At the center of the black hole lies a singularity, a region of space where things become really weird.

The outermost area of a black hole is called the event horizon. A good analogy is those slip road signs that say ‘Wrong way: Turn back now.’ If you drive past that sign, you’re facing oncoming traffic. If you move past the event horizon, you will never leave.

To an outside observer, a person crossing the event horizon would appear to slowly elongate and become dimmer. If this person was transmitting, pauses between transmissions would beome longer and longer as time dilation occurs. Eventually, the person moving towards the center of the black hole -the singularity- would appear dimmer and redder, until it could no longer be seen.

However -and this is where things become really interesting-, the person inside the hole would see no difference. This interstellar pioneer would now be trapped in an area of space where the curvature of time becomes infinite. Here, space and time as we know it does no longer apply. What really happens there, though, nobody really knows.

Luckily however, the two newest black holes discovered are unlikely to ever bother us.

The first was discovered in galaxy NGC 1448, which is 38 million light years away from the Milky Way.

The other is in the farthest reaches of space, in galaxy IC 3639, which is 170 million light years away.

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