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Space Science

Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole 77

Posted by kdawson
from the telescopes-are-where-you-find-them dept.
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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Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole

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  • by uberjoe (726765) on Friday December 12, 2008 @05:57PM (#26096639)
    And were never seen again.
  • And yet... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Hertne (1381263) on Friday December 12, 2008 @06:00PM (#26096685)
    the article makes absolutely no mention of glaciers melting in the dead of night.
  • 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 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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?

  • 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."
  • by Coraon (1080675) on Friday December 12, 2008 @06:08PM (#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!"
  • by critical_point (1430417) on Friday December 12, 2008 @06:08PM (#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.
  • CSI Spinoff (Score:3, Funny)

    by retech (1228598) on Friday December 12, 2008 @06:10PM (#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.
    • 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... ;)

  • 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.
  • Oh no :( (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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??

  • Universe's Largest Scalpel

  • 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...
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      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

      • by pnewhook (788591)

        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.

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          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)

  • 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?
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      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.

  • ...Roseanne Barr's proctologist can hardly be considered an "astronomer".....
  • ...about asstronomers, Goatse and the large hardon collider (or harcon collider?) in there...

    Who's first?

  • by xant (99438) on Friday December 12, 2008 @07:29PM (#26097721) Homepage

    ... 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.

  • 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...
  • 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?
    • by GleeBot (1301227) on Friday December 12, 2008 @10:51PM (#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.

  • by ShakaUVM (157947)

    LOL

    I had Supermassive Black Hole playing in the background when I read this article summary.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsp3_a-PMTw [youtube.com]

  • 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.
    • "[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]
  • Astronomer: "Scalpel..."

    *slurp*

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

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