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Re: Streams Of Hot Gas Twice The Speed Of Light

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Posted by robert barbrow/">robert barbrow on August 9, 1998 23:49:08 UTC

Wednesday December 3 1:54 AM EST

Scientists: Black Hole Explodes in Milky Way

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Astronomers said Tuesday they had captured the image of an exploding black hole, right in Earth's own Milky Way galaxy.

They used a string of radio telescopes across Britain to capture an image of the explosion, which was predicted by Einstein's theories.

The scientists, at Britain's Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratory, said the black hole is at the center of a "micro-quasar" called GRS1915 in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. It is only about 40,000 light-years away -- a light-year being the distance light travels in a year at 186,000 miles a second.

"GRS1915 is believed to consist of a black hole several times more massive than our sun, in orbit with a normal star," Rob Fender, of the University of Amsterdam, said in a statement released by the American Astronomical Society.

"Matter is heated to intense temperatures and radiates X-rays as it spirals in toward the black hole. Most of it is sucked in and lost forever," he said. "The process is so violent that unpredictable explosions occur, producing these spectacular jets."

The international team used MERLIN (the Multi Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network), which is made up of six individual radio telescopes spread out across England. They added up to the equivalent of a single huge dish 135 miles across.

The system can see detail as small as a coin from 50 miles away.

The images show two streams of bullets of ultra-hot gas being shot out in opposite directions with an apparent speed more than double that of light.

One jet is moving toward Earth at an angle, and the other away, with real velocities greater than 90 percent of the speed of light.

Black holes are believed to be collapsed stars that have so much mass, and therefore so much gravity, that they suck in everything that gets near them. Even light cannot escape their power and swirls down into the black hole like water disappearing down a drain.

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