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Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the telescopes-are-where-you-find-them dept.

Space 77

Matt_dk sends along a piece from the European Southern Observatory, which reports on observations of the so-called "Einstein Cross," a fortuitous conjunction of a nearby galaxy and a distant black hole. A team of researchers from Europe and the US combined the effects of macrolensing (from the intervening galaxy) and microlensing (from stars in that galaxy), captured by an earth-bound telescope. "Combining a double natural 'magnifying glass' with the power of ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have scrutinized the inner parts of the disc around a supermassive black hole 10 billion light-years away. They were able to study the disc with a level of detail a thousand times better than that of the best telescopes in the world, providing the first observational confirmation of the prevalent theoretical models of such discs."

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GOATSE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096635)

www.goatse.cx [goatse.cz]

Re:GOATSE (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096925)

For the first time, a first post linking to goatse under a science article may be considered on-topic.

Re:GOATSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26101309)

If the link worked, that is

For once, it's relevant. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097099)

N/T

rest of sentence (5, Funny)

uberjoe (726765) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096639)

And were never seen again.

When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (4, Funny)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096771)

At least they'd be able to say they worked closely together on the issue.

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097177)

Under the pressure of 47,000 consumed black holes, they will (disembodied) definitely come closer together as one entity, physically, and molecularly. As for the souls, who knows?

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26101595)

Cthulhu!

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

ATMD (986401) | more than 5 years ago | (#26102129)

Bless you.

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26102375)

Devour you [wikipedia.org]

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

awright69 (821812) | more than 5 years ago | (#26119553)

As for the souls, who knows?

Call it an exercise in metaphysics.

Re:When passing the event horizon, it's expected. (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111685)

You do know there is a blatant typo in your sig, right? (Sorry for being OT)

Re:rest of sentence (1)

SinGunner (911891) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096799)

Of all things, this somehow caught me off guard and almost made me laugh lemonade out my nose (a painful prospect). Sorry I didn't have any mod points.

Re:rest of sentence (1)

Zephyrmation (1372025) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097163)

Not to mention the information they gathered couldn't escape the gravitational field...soooo, about those tps reports...

Re:rest of sentence... They'll be back... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097219)

Intellectually, maybe. After all, they are ... "brighter than a thousand sons"....

Holes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096669)

This is what science has been accomplishing? Better ways to look into holes?

Re:Holes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097235)

You should click onto that link in the first post, it actually does offer much more insight into these "holes", as you would call it.

Really, the article on that site really opened my eyes, wider than they have widened in all the years i have been alive.

GO MY SON, click the link.

And yet... (5, Funny)

Hertne (1381263) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096685)

the article makes absolutely no mention of glaciers melting in the dead of night.

I did that too (1)

Strep (956749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096727)

when I was "dissecting" some hot babes in bikinis at the beach and this huge yeti walked into the path. My paper will be published next month.

lucky event (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096755)

Quote FTA:

"The use of the macro- and microlensing, coupled with the giant eye of the VLT, enabled astronomers to probe regions on scales as small as a millionth of an arcsecond. This corresponds to the size of a one euro coin seen at a distance of five million kilometres, i.e., about 13 times the distance to the Moon!"

A truly fortuitous occurence. How long before our technology can catch up to that level?

But can they put it back together again? (1)

Erelas (1077365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096757)

Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole

Was kinda hoping they'd opened its super-dense stomach to analyze what it'd been eating. "Frederic, clean up after yourself! You left black hole innards all over the scalpel."

Black hole autopsy (3, Funny)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096785)

The new fox special: "Where did it come from? was this the child of the LHC? which shadowy government agency was responable for its capture? all will be reviled in Black Hole autopsy, tonight on fox!"

Scully Using a Very Large Scapel for Dissection? (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097029)

Obviously an alien object autopsy like that calls for Gillian Anderson to do the dissection. The question is where they'd get a large enough scalpel to dissect a supermassive black hole?

Re:Scully Using a Very Large Scapel for Dissection (5, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097145)

The question is where they'd get a large enough scalpel to dissect a supermassive black hole?

And yet sharp enough to dissect a singularity.

Re:Scully Using a Very Large Scapel for Dissection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26099347)

LOL...Burn

Re:Scully Using a Very Large Scapel for Dissection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26104189)

It's called Chuck Norris.

Re:Black hole autopsy (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098591)

What did the black hole ever do to you that you revile it?

On the otherside of the visible universe (4, Interesting)

critical_point (1430417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096787)

It has not been that long since people first discovered such quasars, and at that time they seemed destined to remain a mega-distant mystery. In the mean time astronomers have accumulated a large body of results on gravitational lensing, which itself is a prediction of Einstein's not-too-old general theory of relativity. Now this technique has been used to form a galatic-cluster-scale configuration that acts as a telescope which can bring us images of this extreme level of detail from across the visible universe. We live in a very exciting period for the science of astronomy.

Re:On the otherside of the visible universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26100941)

Newton's theory of gravity also predicts gravitational lensing. An infinitesimal mass particle (a photon) traveling at the speed of light will deflect according to Newton's law of gravity. The difference between Newton's gravity and Einstein's gravity is Einstein's theory predicts approximately twice as much deflection (which was later confirmed observationally) because mumble it's not just space that is curved but space-time mumble IANAP.

Supermassive Black Hole (-1, Offtopic)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096793)

All of this to view Madonna's vajayjay and from what I gather she'd have let them get a close-up had they asked.

CSI Spinoff (2, Funny)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096809)

This will only lead to yet another CSI spinoff, CSI: ESO. Of course Jeff Goldblum will have to be the quirky male lead that fascinates us while still making us slightly uncomfortable.

Re:CSI Spinoff (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098141)

Hey, maybe they could bring in Natalie Portman as his borderline-lesbian-almost-love-interest. You know, the hot babe they bring in just for the sexual tension... ;)

Wow, that is some serious science. (1, Funny)

blue l0g1c (1007517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096853)

If I'm understanding it right. Unfortunately I can't even come up with a car analogy to describe what I think they're doing.

Re:Wow, that is some serious science. (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26096885)

It's a Pinto that is so explosive that eventually it started imploding and collapse into itself.

Car Analogy. (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097557)

It's sort of as if by combining a double natural 'magnifying glass' with the power of ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have scrutinized the inner parts of a car 10 billion light-years away. They were able to study the car with a level of detail a thousand times better than that of the best telescopes in the world, providing the first observational confirmation of the prevalent theoretical models of such cars.

Hope that helps!

Re:Car Analogy. (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098363)

Ah yes, I see now!

Other common dumbing-down... (1)

A New Normalcy (1190543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100001)

How many football fields away is that?

Re:Other common dumbing-down... (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100027)

How many football fields away is that?

Lots. Like, a whole fucking lot.

Re:Other common dumbing-down... (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26102539)

Can black hole massivity be measured in LoCs?

Re:Other common dumbing-down... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26105723)

black hole = LoC / 0

Re:Wow, that is some serious science. (1)

lpontiac (173839) | more than 5 years ago | (#26104337)

Yo dawg I heard you like magnifying, so we put a gravitational lens in your gravitational lens.

Oh no :( (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097015)

Those freakin' scientists...MICROLENSING the black hole! And a supermassive one at that. The audacity.

In fact, I can just hear it now:

ooh baby don't you know I suffer??

Those freakin' scientists (2, Informative)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097149)

They truly are boffins - one is even called Boffin.

Re:Those freakin' scientists (1)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26099353)

Too bad he didn't have to die to bring us this information...

Re:Those freakin' scientists (1)

badkarmadayaccount (1346167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26111717)

He said Boffin, not coffin. Or am I missing something?

Re:Those freakin' scientists (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100275)

When that's your name, you just have to become a scientist. Like a music teacher I used to know, Derek Tuba.

World's Largest (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097031)

Universe's Largest Scalpel

Hey, that belongs... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097359)

... to the world's most giant doctor!

What I'd need for that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097071)

Supermassive scalpal!

This better not be (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097237)

goatse

Question for Astronomers (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097251)

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

Re:Question for Astronomers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26099311)

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

I can assume that macrolensing only works as a magnification if you are not looking for things such as spatial detail, and are instead looking for general facts such as temperatures and wavelengths of light. But then I am assumming...

The lensing works in a way similar to a standard magnifying lense, with different concavity. Its similar to a lense that bulges in the middle and tapers off at the edges.

Re:Question for Astronomers (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100837)

How does macrolensing/microlensing end up magnifying an area in space? To my caveman-like mind, it seems like it would act more as an attenuating factor, reducing the signal to fuzz.

The macrolensing and microlensing both work in the same way as standard lensing.

do you remember Huyghens Construction [tamuk.edu] showing how a change in the propagation (phase) velocity of a wave in one region compared to another region can lead to the laws of refraction and reflection of waves? And how this was used as evidence that the nature of light was wave-like [wikipedia.org] ? Back in the early 18th century it was, IIRC (before the likes of Young demonstrated that interference effects meant that light must have a wave nature rather than a corpuscular nature, and before Einstein won his Nobel for demonstrating that light must have a corpuscular nature rather than a wave nature, and then quantum happened and the sales of headache pills took off)

You don't remember? Your physics teacher wasted those hours splashing around with the ripple tank [wikipedia.org] . Shame on you, wasting his/ her/ it's/ their efforts like that!

Well, given Huyghen's construction and a bounded, more or less spherical region of reduced phase velocity (by whatever means), then you get lensing. Again, those poor neglected physics teachers did try to impart this to you. It's not relevant what the source of the reduced regional phase velocity for light is - it could be the density of gases (cue : hot-air mirage) ; it could be gravitational fields (Eddington's famous demonstration of Special Relativity at the 1920 solar eclipse, or did you sleep through that physics lesson too?); it could be the diligent activity of maliciously trained Maxwellian Daemon (Hi Marijke [demon.co.uk] , if you're listening) running around grabbing photons by the tail and slowing them down that way. The result is the same : slowing across a geometrically limited region brings waves to a focus. Not necessarily a good focus, but a focus nonetheless.

The optical centre of the lenses is nearer to us than it is to the quasars in question. As a matter of simple Euclidian geometry, this means that the image is magnified. That would probably have been in the physics lectures some weeks before the ones about the nature and behaviour of waves.

Of course, I suppose that it's possible that your school hasn't covered these topics yet ; if not, I'd suggest that you ask your parents for permission to get a science tutor, so that you can get up to speed on the basic knowledge necessary for a 14-year-old to get into senior school.

Sorry, this does sound rather catty, doesn't it. But this is fundamental school stuff, which I and possibly you pay good tax money to have inculcated into kids in time for them to go on to learn more complex stuff, like how to make crystal meth and fusion reactors. It's a while since I had to go back through it - hence checking that it was Huyghens' Construction above instead of Young's. But it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes for the brain to bring it back from off-line storage.

Re:Question for Astronomers (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26102455)

Of course, I suppose that it's possible that your school hasn't covered these topics yet ; if not, I'd suggest that you ask your parents for permission to get a science tutor, so that you can get up to speed on the basic knowledge necessary for a 14-year-old to get into senior school.

Of course the school hasn't taught this yet. Because to teach anything that would imply the earth is not the center of the universe and more than 8000 years old would be contrary to the teachings of God and must of course be wrong. Welcome to church controlled schooling.

Re:Question for Astronomers (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26107757)

Of course the school hasn't taught this yet. Because to teach anything that would imply the earth is not the center of the universe and more than 8000 years old would be contrary to the teachings of God and must of course be wrong. Welcome to church controlled schooling.

Maybe I was lucky in the schooling I received : the worst teacher for ramming religion down his charges throats (Chemistry, Dr. Blunt, I'm afraid) was totally ineffectual since he was trying to both teach chemistry (in which he had his PhD) and ram religion down people's throats, which just doesn't work. Meanwhile, the teacher whose job it was to ram religion down the throats of the unwilling ("Religious Education" classes, by methodist lay preacher Mr Verity) had to deal with the contradictions of having nominal Christians, a Jew, a JW (whose parents had astonishing faith in their faith and didn't ban him from attending R.E.), several Hindus, a couple of Muslims plus at least one vocal atheist [/self] all in the same class and all espousing what boils down to "I'm right, everyone else is wrong." Even the more clinically retarded of my classmates couldn't help but see that not everyone could be right.

I only just realised the appropriateness of those names, after 30 freaking years! and I swear to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem that I'm not making them up!

I think I've still got Verity's last school report on me somewhere : "Exam result : 98%. Comments : Top of the year! As an atheist, Karley should be ashamed of himself!" I laughed for a week. well, a couple of hours.

Well, let the religious take control of the schools. The worst they can do is bring technological society crashing to it's knees, and I doubt that people's self-interest will allow them to get very far down the road of starvation, power cuts and infectious diseases before some of the more prominent god-nuts get strung up from lamp posts and lit for illumination (pun intended).

I gather that the situation is far worse in the US than it is in the bulk of the world (though sitting here off the coast of Israel, I do wonder how far the canker has spread?), but I believe the US has laws requiring people to use semi-automatic hand guns in protection of their SUV-clad lifestyle, so you know what to do. "Pray to your god to stop the bullet, mutthafukka! Now put your faith in your prayers and your lips round this gun barrel."

Subtlty used to be my strong point. Used to be.

pft yeah right - 10 billion light years away (0)

planckscale (579258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097273)

So does that mean we have to wait for 10 billion years to prove this actually happened? For all we know, those black holes were just a convergence of fake radiation created just to trick us into believing this actually happened. And then, who knows, 10 billion years from now, they'll erect a sign saying "u wer pwnd!" Give me some fricken verifiable data a little closer to earth wouldya?

Re:pft yeah right - 10 billion light years away (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098823)

I just called the ESO and they told me that if they ever find a supermassive black hole inside the solar system they'll let you know.

Re:pft yeah right - 10 billion light years away (3, Informative)

FranklinWebber (1307427) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098899)

Several responses to your post:

"...wait for 10 billion years...": no, whatever happened seems to have happened some 10 billion years _ago_.

"...convergence of fake radiation...": although the 10-billion-year-old events are still quite open to argument, the astronomers observed _real_ radiation from them.

"...fricken verifiable data closer to earth...": any slashdotter can tell you that you'll get your nearby black hole data just a few dozen milliseconds after the LHC starts working.

Oh c'mon.... (1)

smartin14 (1430441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097309)

...Roseanne Barr's proctologist can hardly be considered an "astronomer".....

There's a joke... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097313)

...about asstronomers, Goatse and the large hardon collider (or harcon collider?) in there...

Who's first?

Pictures? (1)

rezac (733345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097427)

Pictures, or it didn't happen.

Re:Pictures? (1)

Golddess (1361003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26105929)

Here's an artist's rendition.

O

If you can't tell, it's been split down the center and pulled apart.

Italics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097569)

What's even more amazing is that the entire team speaks only in italics!!!

Could've just asked me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26097683)

It's full of whiny English musicians.

I want Einstein's cross on a silver chain (3, Interesting)

xant (99438) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097721)

... seriously. This would be such a great accessory for the scientifically-minded. It's a nice, distinctive-looking piece of science [eso.org] . Wear it as an atheist as a statement about religion; wear it next to your christian cross as a non-atheist as a statement about rational spirituality. Whatever - I just think someone could make a nice piece of thoughtful jewelery out of this.

Still to prove... (1)

EtaCarinae (1149927) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098173)

They've been measuring these 4 images for years to see if the curves can be fit together and thereby prove that it is in fact the same quasar we see four times. As far as I know this is still unestablished. Known non-mainstream cosmologists such as Halton Arp [wikipedia.org] believe these four objects are distinct and have been ejected by the center galaxy...

Re:Still to prove... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26098645)

If you can see back 10 billion light years measuring from many different source some small curvature of space/time it would seem detecting if they are distinct objects would be pretty simple.

If they are the same then something they are doing is being mirrored (position, brightness, etc.).

Re:Still to prove... (1)

EtaCarinae (1149927) | more than 5 years ago | (#26105345)

Yes. I think they're pretty much at the same redshift. This is however also expected from Arp's ideas though.

There should be other features as well, such as Lyman-alpha forests [wikipedia.org] usable in establishing the sameness of these objects. I don't know if these has/can be measured for these four objects though...

Re:Still to prove... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26102899)

That depends on whether you mean proven beyond reasonable doubt, or beyond unreasonable doubt.

Re:Still to prove... (1)

EtaCarinae (1149927) | more than 5 years ago | (#26105281)

I'm not that much for the ejection "crackpot" ideas ;-), they're amusing though. I haven't RTFA, but I wonder if there's anything in the measurement data indicating some orientation of the quasar output. Then it would be possible to perform the same measurements on the other three objects and check if the estimated orientation correlates. I guess it's not possible from these kinds of observations though.

Regarding the problem with correlating the four objects variable light - what might be the largest time difference from a lens like this? I have no idea. Could one image be delayed a hundred years? Seems too much to me. It would be very cool if they eventually could tell the 4 images mutual delays!

It's kind of awesome having these far point sources being sighted through star fields. Even though they're just a couple of light days wide, I guess there might be like a fog of stars passing by in a fast flowing stream. Probably very interesting to study the diffraction stuff and how the filtering affects the natural variance in the quasar's light!

Why an Einstein Cross? (1)

Stephen Ma (163056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098473)

Why does gravitational lensing yield four images of the distant quasar, resulting in a cross? Since the quasar presumably radiates energy in all directions, shouldn't its image be a continuous ring? Why are we seeing four distinct blobs instead?

Re:Why an Einstein Cross? (3, Informative)

GleeBot (1301227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26099485)

Some gravitational lensing configurations do, in fact, produce a ring [wikipedia.org] . As you might expect, though, such perfect alignment is pretty rare, and you usually get partial arcs or smeared out blobs.

I'm not knowledgeable about the exact reason for the cross configuration is, but the unusual effects of gravitational lensing are often due to the fact that the lens (a massive galaxy, in most cases) isn't a perfect point source, so the optical effects are somewhat surprising.

so....does this mean? (1)

prndll (1425091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100247)

that the existence of black holes has been proven beyond theory or any possible conjecture? I mean...let's step back from Stargate and wormhole physics here.

Re:so....does this mean? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26102131)

"[Does this mean]the existence of black holes has been proven beyond theory or any possible conjecture?"

Science doesn't "prove" anything and "beyond theory or any possible conjecture" implies something super-natural or divine but yes the existance of black holes has been accepted by science for several decades. You cannot please everyone so I am sure there are still a few who deny the existance of black holes due to the long tail of skepticisim [google.com.au]

Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole (1)

STFS (671004) | more than 5 years ago | (#26121919)

Astronomer: "Scalpel..."

*slurp*

Astronomer: "crap... another one please..."

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