SCIENCE -- November 15, 2010 at 2:07 PM ET
Just 30 Years Old, Youngest Nearby Black Hole Discovered
A team of Harvard astrophysicists has discovered what they believe is an infant black hole, the youngest ever found in our cosmic backyard. The data indicate that it is just 30 years old (for some historical context, that's toward the end of the Jimmy Carter administration, but before the Miracle on Ice). It is believed to be a remnant of Supernova 1979C, which exploded in the galaxy M100, some 50 million light years away.
A black hole is caused when a star collapses into itself, crushing its own weight to a minuscule point, causing a gravitational pull so powerful that not even light can escape.
The astronomers' theory is based on a bright, steady emission of X-rays, which scientists observed from 1995 to 2007 using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. While the evidence points to a black hole, another theory is that a spinning neutron star may have caused the X-ray stream.
The findings will be published in the journal, New Astronomy.