Of all the bizarre quirks of nature, supermassive black holes are some of the most mysterious because they're completely invisible.
But that could soon change.
Black holes are deep wells in the fabric of space-time that eternally trap anything that dares too close, and supermassive black holes have the deepest wells of all. These hollows are generated by extremely dense objects thousands to billions of times more massive than our sun.
Not even light can escape black holes, which means they're invisible to any of the instruments astrophysicists currently use. Although they don't emit light, black holes will, under the right conditions, emit large amounts of gravitational waves — ripples in spacetime that propagate through the universe like ripples across a pond's surface.
And although no one has ever detected a gravitational wave, there are a handful of instruments around the world waiting to catch one.
Game-changing gravitational waves
This illustration shows two spiral galaxies - each with supermassive black holes at their center - as they are about to collide.
Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. According to his theory of general relativity, black holes will emit these waves when they accelerate to high speeds, which happens when two black holes encounter one another in the universe.
As two galaxies collide, for example, the supermassive black holes at their centers will also collide. But first, they enter into a deadly cosmic dance where the smaller black hole spirals into the larger black hole, moving increasingly faster as it inches toward it's inevitable doom. As it accelerates, it emits gravitational waves.
Astrophysicists are out to observe these waves generated by two merging black holes with instruments like the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
"The detection of gravitational waves would be a game changer for astronomers in the field," Clifford Will, a distinguished profess of physics at the University of Florida who studied under famed astrophysicist Kip Thorne told Business Insider. "We would be able to test aspects of general relativity that have not been tested."
Because these waves have never been detected, astrophysicists are still trying to figure out how to find them. To do this, they build computer simulations to predict what kinds of gravitational waves a black hole merger will produce.
Learn by listening
In the simulation below, made by Steve Drasco at California Polytechnic State University (also known as Cal Poly), a black hole gets consumed by a supermassive black hole about 30,000 times as heavy.
You'll want to turn up the volume.
What you're seeing and hearing are two different things.
The black lines you're seeing are the orbits of the tiny black hole traced out as it falls into the supermassive black hole. What you're hearing are gravitational waves.
"The motion makes gravitational waves, and you are hearing the waves," Drasco wrote in a blog post describing his work.
Of course, there is no real sound in space, so if you somehow managed to encounter this rare cataclysmic event, you would not likely hear anything. However, what Drasco has done will help astrophysicists track down these illusive waves.
Just a little fine tuning
Gravitational waves are similar to radio waves in that both have specific frequencies. On the radio, for example, the number corresponding to the station you're listening to represents the frequency at which that station transmits.
3D visualization of gravitational waves produced by 2 orbiting black holes. Right now, astrophysicists only have an idea of what frequencies two merging black holes transmit because they’re rare and hard to find. In fact, the first ever detection of an event of this kind was only announced this month.
Therefore, astrophysicists are basically toying with their instruments like you sometimes toy with your radio to find the right station, except they don’t know what station will give them the signal they’re looking for.
What Drasco has done in his simulation is estimate the frequency at which an event like this would produce and then see how that frequency changes, so astrophysicists have a better idea of how to fine tune their instruments to search for these waves.
Detecting gravitational waves would revolutionize the field of astronomy because it would give observers an entirely new way to see the universe. Armed with this new tool, they will be able to test general relativity in ways never before made possible.
Excerpt from cbsnews.com Rings of stars thought to surround the Milky Way are actually part of it, according to new research, meaning the galaxy is bigger than previously believed.The findings extend the known width of the Milk...
Excerpt from techtimes.comAstronomers have long suspected strange ripples in hydrogen gas in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy are caused by the gravity of an unseen dwarf galaxy dominated by dark matter -- and now they think they've found this "Gal...
In this infrared image, stellar winds from a giant star cause interstellar dust to form ripples. There's a whole lot of dust—which contains oxygen, carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements—out there, and eventually some of it finds its way into our bodies.
Photograph by NASA, JPL-Caltech
We have stardust in us as old as the universe—and some that may have landed on Earth just a hundred years ago.
Astrophysics and medical pathology don't, at first sight, appear to have much in common. What do sunspots have to do with liver spots? How does the big bang connect with cystic fibrosis?
Book jacket courtesy of schrijver+schrijver
Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, have joined the dots in a new book, Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars.
Talking from their home in Palo Alto, California, they explain how everything in us originated in cosmic explosions billions of years ago, how our bodies are in a constant state of decay and regeneration, and why singer Joni Mitchell was right.
"We are stardust," Joni Mitchell famously sang in "Woodstock." It turns out she was right, wasn't she?
Iris: Was she ever! Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today. It directly connects us to the universe, rebuilding our bodies over and again over our lifetimes.
That was one of the biggest surprises for us in this book. We really didn't realize how impermanent we are, and that our bodies are made of remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. All the material in our bodies originates with that residual stardust, and it finds its way into plants, and from there into the nutrients that we need for everything we do—think, move, grow. And every few years the bulk of our bodies are newly created.
Can you give me some examples of how stardust formed us?
Karel: When the universe started, there was just hydrogen and a little helium and very little of anything else. Helium is not in our bodies. Hydrogen is, but that's not the bulk of our weight. Stars are like nuclear reactors. They take a fuel and convert it to something else. Hydrogen is formed into helium, and helium is built into carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, iron and sulfur—everything we're made of. When stars get to the end of their lives, they swell up and fall together again, throwing off their outer layers. If a star is heavy enough, it will explode in a supernova.
So most of the material that we're made of comes out of dying stars, or stars that died in explosions. And those stellar explosions continue. We have stuff in us as old as the universe, and then some stuff that landed here maybe only a hundred years ago. And all of that mixes in our bodies.
Stars are being born and stars are dying in this infrared snapshot of the heavens. You and I—we come from stardust.
Photograph by NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Wisconsin
Your book yokes together two seemingly different sciences: astrophysics and human biology. Describe your individual professions and how you combined them to create this book.
Iris: I'm a physician specializing in genetics and pathology. Pathologists are the medical specialists who diagnose diseases and their causes. We also study the responses of the body to such diseases and to the treatment given. I do this at the level of the DNA, so at Stanford University I direct the diagnostic molecular pathology laboratory. I also provide patient care by diagnosing inherited diseases and also cancers, and by following therapy responses in those cancer patients based on changes that we can detect in their DNA.
Our book is based on many conversations that Karel and I had, in which we talked to each other about topics from our daily professional lives. Those areas are quite different. I look at the code of life. He's an astrophysicist who explores the secrets of the stars. But the more we followed up on our questions to each other, the more we discovered our fields have a lot more connections than we thought possible.
Karel: I'm an astrophysicist. Astrophysicists specialize in all sorts of things, from dark matter to galaxies. I picked stars because they fascinated me. But no matter how many stars you look at, you can never see any detail. They're all tiny points in the sky.
So I turned my attention to the sun, which is the only star where we can see what happens all over the universe. At some point NASA asked me to lead a summer school for beginning researchers to try to create materials to understand the things that go all the way from the sun to the Earth. I learned so many things about these connections I started to tell Iris. At some point I thought: This could be an interesting story, and it dawned on us that together we go all the way, as she said, from the smallest to the largest. And we have great fun doing this together.
We tend to think of our bodies changing only slowly once we reach adulthood. So I was fascinated to discover that, in fact, we're changing all the time and constantly rebuilding ourselves. Talk about our skin.
Iris: Most people don't even think of the skin as an organ. In fact, it's our largest one. To keep alive, our cells have to divide and grow. We're aware of that because we see children grow. But cells also age and eventually die, and the skin is a great example of this.
It's something that touches everything around us. It's also very exposed to damage and needs to constantly regenerate. It weighs around eight pounds [four kilograms] and is composed of several layers. These layers age quickly, especially the outer layer, the dermis. The cells there are replaced roughly every month or two. That means we lose approximately 30,000 cells every minute throughout our lives, and our entire external surface layer is replaced about once a year.
Very little of our physical bodies lasts for more than a few years. Of course, that's at odds with how we perceive ourselves when we look into the mirror. But we're not fixed at all. We're more like a pattern or a process. And it was the transience of the body and the flow of energy and matter needed to counter that impermanence that led us to explore our interconnectedness with the universe.
You have a fascinating discussion about age. Describe how different parts of the human body age at different speeds.
Iris: Every tissue recreates itself, but they all do it at a different rate. We know through carbon dating that cells in the adult human body have an average age of seven to ten years. That's far less than the age of the average human, but there are remarkable differences in these ages. Some cells literally exist for a few days. Those are the ones that touch the surface. The skin is a great example, but also the surfaces of our lungs and the digestive tract. The muscle cells of the heart, an organ we consider to be very permanent, typically continue to function for more than a decade. But if you look at a person who's 50, about half of their heart cells will have been replaced.
Our bodies are never static. We're dynamic beings, and we have to be dynamic to remain alive. This is not just true for us humans. It's true for all living things.
A figure that jumped out at me is that 40,000 tons of cosmic dust fall on Earth every year. Where does it all come from? How does it affect us?
Karel: When the solar system formed, it started to freeze gas into ice and dust particles. They would grow and grow by colliding. Eventually gravity pulled them together to form planets. The planets are like big vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything around them. But they didn't complete the job. There's still an awful lot of dust floating around.
When we say that as an astronomer, we can mean anything from objects weighing micrograms, which you wouldn't even see unless you had a microscope, to things that weigh many tons, like comets. All that stuff is still there, being pulled around by the gravity of the planets and the sun. The Earth can't avoid running into this debris, so that dust falls onto the Earth all the time and has from the very beginning. It's why the planet was made in the first place.
Nowadays, you don't even notice it. But eventually all that stuff, which contains oxygen and carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements, finds its way into our bodies.
When a really big piece of dust, like a giant comet or asteroid, falls onto the Earth, you get a massive explosion, which is one of the reasons we believe the dinosaurs became extinct some 70 million years ago. That fortunately doesn't happen very often. But things fall out of the sky all the time. [Laughs]
Many everyday commodities we use also began their existence in outer space. Tell us about salt.
Karel: Whatever you mention, its history began in outer space. Take salt. What we usually mean by salt is kitchen salt. It has two chemicals, sodium and chloride. Where did they come from? They were formed inside stars that exploded billions of years ago and at some point found their way onto the Earth. Stellar explosions are still going on today in the galaxy, so some of the chlorine we're eating in salt was made only recently.
You study pathology, Iris. Is physical malfunction part of the cosmic order?
Iris: Absolutely. There are healthy processes, such as growth, for which we need cell division. Then there are processes when things go wrong. We age because we lose the balance between cell deaths and regeneration. That's what we see in the mirror when we age over time. That's also what we see when diseases develop, such as cancers. Cancer is basically a mistake in the DNA, and because of that the whole system can be derailed. Aging and cancer are actually very similar processes. They both originate in the fact that there's a loss of balance between regeneration and cell loss.
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited genetic disease. You inherit an error in the DNA. Because of that, certain tissues do not have the capability to provide their normal function to the body. My work is focused on finding changes in DNA in different populations so we can understand better what kinds of mutations are the basis of that disease. Based on that, we can provide prognosis. There are now drugs that target specific mutations, as well as transplants, so these patients can have a much better life span than was possible 10 or 20 years ago.
How has writing this book changed your view of life—and your view of each other?
Karel: There are two things that struck me, one that I had no idea about. The first is what Iris described earlier—the impermanence of our bodies. As a physicist, I thought the body was built early on, that it would grow and be stable. Iris showed me, over a long series of dinner discussions, that that's not the way it works. Cells die and rebuild all the time. We're literally not what were a few years ago, and not just because of the way we think. Everything around us does this. Nature is not outside us. We are nature.
As far as our relationship is concerned, I always had a great deal of respect for Iris, and physicians in general. They have to know things that I couldn't possibly remember. And that's only grown with time.
Iris: Physics was not my favorite topic in high school. [Laughs] Through Karel and our conversations, I feel that the universe and the world around us has become much more accessible. That was our goal with the book as well. We wanted it to be accessible and understandable for anyone with a high school education. It was a challenge to write it that way, to explain things to each other in lay terms. But it has certainly changed my view of life. It's increased my sense of wonder and appreciation of life.
In terms of Karel's profession and our relationship, it has inevitably deepened. We understand much better what the other person is doing in the sandboxes we respectively play in. [Laughs]
Excerpt from news.asiaone.com CAPE CANAVERAL, US - Scientists using Europe's comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft have discovered that the complicated ancient body is coated with surprisingly simple organic molecules and surrounded by a changing clou...
Scene from a NASA animation showing two neutron stars colliding.
Excerpt from space.com By looking for ripples in the fabric of space-time, scientists could soon detect "strange stars" — objects made of stuff radically different from the particles that make up ordinary matter, researchers say.
The protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of atoms are made of more basic particles known as quarks. There are six types, or "flavors," of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm and strange. Each proton or neutron is made of three quarks: Each proton is composed of two up quarks and one down quark, and each neutron is made of two down quarks and one up quark.
In theory, matter can be made with other flavors of quarks as well. Since the 1970s, scientists have suggested that particles of "strange matter" known as strangelets — made of equal numbers of up, down and strange quarks — could exist. In principle, strange matter should be heavier and more stable than normal matter, and might even be capable of converting ordinary matter it comes in contact with into strange matter. However, lab experiments have not yet created any strange matter, so its existence remains uncertain.
One place strange matter could naturally be created is inside neutron stars, the remnants of stars that died in catastrophic explosions known as supernovas. Neutron stars are typically small, with diameters of about 12 miles (19 kilometers) or so, but are so dense that they weigh as much as the sun. A chunk of a neutron star the size of a sugar cube can weigh as much as 100 million tons.
Under the extraordinary force of this extreme weight, some of the up and down quarks that make up neutron stars could get converted into strange quarks, leading to strange stars made of strange matter, researchers say.
A strange star that occasionally spurts out strange matter could quickly convert a neutron star orbiting it in a binary system into a strange star as well. Prior research suggests that a neutron star that receives a seed of strange matter from a companion strange star could transition to a strange star in just 1 millisecond to 1 second. Now, researchers suggest they could detect strange stars by looking for the stars' gravitational waves — invisible ripples in space-time first proposed by Albert Einstein as part of his theory of general relativity.
Gravitational waves are emitted by accelerating masses. Really big gravitational waves are emitted by really big masses, such as pairs of neutron stars merging with one another.
Pairs of strange stars should give off gravitational waves that are different from those emitted by pairs of "normal" neutron stars because strange stars should be more compact, researchers said. For instance, a neutron star with a mass one-fifth that of the sun should be more than 18 miles (30 km) in diameter, whereas a strange star of the same mass should be a maximum of 6 miles (10 km) wide. The researchers suggest that events involving strange stars could explain two short gamma-ray bursts — giant explosions lasting less than 2 seconds — seen in deep space in 2005 and 2007. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) did not detect gravitational waves from either of these events, dubbed GRB 051103 and GRB 070201.
Neutron star mergers are the leading explanations for short gamma-ray bursts, but LIGO should, in principle, have detected gravitational waves from such mergers. However, if strange stars were involved in both of these events, LIGO would not have been able to detect any gravitational waves they emitted, researchers said. (The more compact a star is within a binary system of two stars, the higher the frequency of the gravitational waves it gives off.) View Article Here Read More
Excerpt from csmonitor.com By Pete Spotts Scientists believe a mysteriously bright object in a galaxy 90 million light-years away could be a rogue black hole evicted during the merger of two galaxies. Astronomers have long hunted for galaxies that might be evicting supermassive black holes at their centers. Eviction would represent an important confirmation of Einstein's theory of general relativity under extreme conditions and could help shed light on the influence such massive features have on the evolution of galaxies themselves.
Now they may have found one of those rogue black holes. A dwarf galaxy 90 million light-years from Earth hosts an unusually bright object some 2,600 light-years from its center – an object that carries many of the signatures one would expect from a supermassive black hole feasting on surrounding gas. The galaxy involved is known as Markarian 177, located within the constellation Big Dipper.
The object's position far from the center of the galaxy and the galaxy's odd shape makes it “the most promising candidate we've found” for a supermassive black hole ejected during the merger of two galaxies, says Laura Blecha, a researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park, who focuses on the interrelationship of supermassive black holes and their host galaxies as the two evolve. She cautions that a renegade black hole is not the only explanation for the object the team has observed.
If it is a supermassive black hole, however, it would represent a spectacular confirmation of Einstein's general theory of relativity as it relates to the enormous gravitational fields of supermassive black holes..
Black holes are objects so dense that their gravitational tug prevents even light from escaping. So-called stellar black holes form from the explosion and collapse of very massive stars.
Supermassive black holes tip the cosmic scales at millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. They are thought to lurk in the centers of most, if not all, galaxies. These behemoths are thought to play a key role in galaxy evolution by regulating a galaxy's rate of star formation.
When galaxies merge, so do their central black holes. Theorists have noted that based on Einstein's theory of general relativity, such black-hole mergers should generate powerful ripples in the very fabric of space-time, ripples known as gravitational waves. One way these merger-related gravity waves would make their presence known is through a recoil effect. This effect would be powerful enough to launch the single merged central black hole out of the center of its newly enlarged galaxy into an orbit that grows ever wider. If the galaxy's gravity was weak enough, as it might be in a dwarf galaxy, the black hole could travel fast enough to leave the galaxy altogether.
“Either way it's something very interesting,” she says.
You can also participate in a meditation to clear Long Island, taking place at 3 am, 11 am and 7 pm GMT daily, whenever it is convenient for you (the link only works if you are signed into your facebook account):
Ebola virus was engineered in laboratories in Africa and when it did not spread as the Cabal has hoped, due to intervention of the Light forces, they have hyped up a media campaign to instill fear of Ebola, especially in the US.
In reality, the Ebola »pandemic« is already receding: