In Star Trek, the baddies used cloaking devices to make their spacecraft invisible so they could creep up on their enemies undetected.
With that in mind, you might understand just why the ‘cloaked’ supermassive black hole Nasa has just discovered sounds so ominous.
Astronomers from the American space agency have found the most distant cloaked hole ever seen by humanity.
But don’t worry, it’s not about to sneak up on anyone.
The monster is so far away that observing it effectively means stargazers are looking back in time to an era close to the beginning of the universe.
A cloaked hole is the name for a behemoth called a quasar that’s shrouded by a vast cloud of gas.
Quasars are thought to form when supermassive black holes suck in material from a disc of surrounding matter and generate electromagnetic radiation including light, making the objects glow brightly in the night sky.
It’s believed quasars are cloaked during a period of early growth, hiding their light until the hole swallows up everything around it.
The cloaked black hole was spotted by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which picks up x-rays which are invisible to the human eye.
‘It’s extraordinarily challenging to find quasars in this cloaked phase because so much of their radiation is absorbed and cannot be detected by current instruments,’ said Fabio Vito of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago, Chile, who led the study.
‘Thanks to Chandra and the ability of X-rays to pierce through the obscuring cloud, we think we’ve finally succeeded.’
The hole formed when the universe was less than one billion years old, or 7% of its current age.
Astronomers recently discovered an ‘ultra-massive’ black hole that’s one of the largest cosmic colossi ever discovered.
A team of German researchers believe a monster with a mass 40 billion times bigger than our sun is lurking at the centre of a galaxy called Holmberg 15A.
The behemoth is so huge that it would be able to eat the entire solar system, including Earth and all its fleshy residents.
Although the hole’s existence has been mooted before, the new study is the first to prove its existence by analysing the movements of stars around it.
‘This is the most massive black hole with a direct… detection in the local universe,’ the team wrote.
The beast of Holmberg 15A (which is also called Holm 15A) is likely to be truly gargantuan.
A similarly-sized hole called S5 0014+81 has a diameter of 236.7 billion kilometres – which is about 40 times bigger than the distance at which Pluto orbits from the sun.
This makes it ‘ultra massive’ rather than simply ‘supermassive’, which is the name for the dark leviathans which are often found at the centre of galaxies.
Now, you might think that a bigger black hole is scarier than a little one.
But you’d probably survive for longer if you plunged into a supermassive hole than a small ‘stellar-sized’ beast with a mass comparable to our sun’s.
It’s believed the ‘tidal forces’ are lower at the event horizon (the point of no return) of a supermassive hole than they are at within a smaller hole.
This means an unlucky astronaut might be able to eke out their existence until they plunge beyond the event horizon – whereas a tinier monster would rip them apart much sooner.
Anything that falls into a black hole undergoes a process called spaghettification in which they are stretched into a long, thin shape resembling a piece of spaghetti.
Sadly, although you might theoretically take a little longer to succumb to this grim fate if you decided to jump into an ultramassive or supermassive black hole, it’s likely the radiation and other deadly forces will kill you stone dead long before you get turned into a great cosmic space noodle.
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