NASA’s Swift satellite has detected an X-ray nova toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, signaling the existence of a stellar-mass black hole. The X-ray nova, which produces a growing amount of high-energy X-rays, was previously unknown to scientists and is the first activity of this kind Swift has detected, according to a release from NASA Friday.
On Sept. 16, Swift detected a new, brightening X-ray source a few degrees from the center of the galaxy — a rare X-ray nova. The object has been labeled Swift J1745-26 — the coordinates of its sky position. It is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000 light-years from Earth.
The above video produced by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center explains how the stellar-mass black hole is detectable via its X-ray signature. Thick dust clouds make it impossible to see in visible light.
“Bright X-ray novae are so rare that they’re essentially once-a-mission events and this is the first one Swift has seen,” said Neil Gehrels, the mission’s principal investigator, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center via a release Friday. "This is really something we've been waiting for."
Swift was launched in 2004 and was created to assist scientists in finding the origin of gamma-ray bursts. It is managed by NASA’s Maryland-based Goddard Space Flight Center in collaboration with Penn State, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Orbital Sciences, Corp. in Dulles, Va.
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