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Space Scoop
Not Your Average Superhero

A black hole is formed when a massive star is squashed into an incredibly tiny volume. (The equivalent of squeezing the Earth into the size of a marble!) Packing so much material in such a small space gives black holes a superpower: Incredibly strong gravity that can even swallow-up light forever if it gets too close!

Around the danger zone, before disappearing forever into the black hole, any nearby material is accelerated to very high speeds. This fast-moving material gives off X-rays, which astronomers can observe using special telescopes in space.

Of course, there should be a limit to even a superhero's powers. But in recent years, astronomers have discovered regions around black holes that are giving off a crazy amount of X-rays - a lot more than what should be possible. In the galaxy pictured above, which is called M83, astronomers have discovered such a weirdly powerful black hole.

Astronomers still don't fully understand what is making these black holes mega-powerful, but it could be that they are much heavier than normal black holes. A heavy black hole could pull in more material than a smaller black hole, which would make a lot more X-rays. Instead of being a few times heavier than the Sun, like normal black holes, the mega-powerful ones could be up to 100 times heavier!

Cool fact: The black hole in the galaxy M83 is now producing 3000 times more X-rays than it had been before it became mega-powerful!

More information
This Space Scoop is based on a NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory Press Release.

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Image Credit: Left image - Optical: ESO/VLT; Close-up - X-ray: NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R.Soria et al., Optical: NASA/STScI/Middlebury College/F.Winkler et al.


This is a kids' version of Chandra Press Release M83 (April 30, 2012)

Do you want to learn more about this topic?

Visit the Chandra field guide or send us your questions in an email: cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu




In cooperation with Space Scoop: Bringing news from across the Universe to children all around the world. Universe Awareness and the Chandra X-ray Observatory


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