This is an artist's conception of the event horizon surrounding the object, Cygnus XR-1.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of STScI, NASA, ESA

Spiraling into A Black Hole
News story originally written on January 16, 2001

Everyone is awed by black holes. How could there be a thing that just devours all light and matter around that that matter can never again escape?!? Scientists using observations from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope have found material spiraling into black holes!

These independent observations show the best evidence for event horizons surrounding black holes. Event horizons are the point around a black hole from which nothing (not even light!) can escape! Only black holes have event horizons, so finding an event horizon is finding a black hole.

This all sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but in reality, these findings took an awful lot of meticulous calculations... to make their findings, researchers studied a dozen x-ray novae systems using Chandra measurements. And scientists with the Hubble team studied a massive, compact object called Cygnus XR-1. Joseph Dolan of GSFC studied the 1992 Hubble observations of Cygnus XR-1. The observation for just three months of 1992 of Cygnus XR-1 yielded 1 billion data points! Dolan "mined" the enormous database on and off for years. "Looking for the decaying pulse train was like looking for the proverbial needle-in-a haystack," he says. "Put another way, it was like listening for a specific word in a many hours-long transmission of Morse code."

Learn more about these findings using the links below.

Last modified January 18, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

NASA Reveals First Images from Chandra

NASA recently revealed a few of the many images that will come from its newest telescope. Since first being deployed July 23, the Chandra X Observatory has functioned perfectly. It first made a series...more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST is credited...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center at 2:19 p.m. EST, October 29th. The sky was clear and the weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit for the Unitied...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials are demanding an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

During a period of about two days in early May, 1998, the ACE spacecraft was immersed in plasma associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME). The SWICS instrument on ACE, which determines unambiguously...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA