Thirty years ago a supernova exploded 50 million light years away (right, so it actually exploded 50 million plus thirty years ago if you take into account the space and time like separation from this event) in the grand spiral design galaxy M100. A year ago a paper titled Evidence for a Black Hole Remnant in the Type IIL Supernova 1979C appeared on the astrophysics preprint archive claiming that the continued X-ray emission from the object was consistent with a 5-10 solar mass black hole. Five days ago NASA announced it was going to make an an announcement. Today NASA made a press release claiming that NASA's Chandra satellite had found the youngest black hole ever. It is a beautiful discovery.
Or is it? Lets peer inside to see the inner beauty of this discovery. The original version of the paper was submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters , but was not accepted and only after a revision was it submitted again this time to Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters. Today along with the press release a third revision of the paper went up. The excitement really just boils down to the fact that SN1979c has been a remarkably consistent and bright X-ray source for its 30 year lifetime.
The object seems to have been an approximately 20 solar mass star before it collapsed, but the core which really counts when a star collapse was around 3 solar masses. A core that is much larger than 3 solar masses would collapse into a black hole, a core a little less than 3 solar masses would form a neutron star, but there is no way to know the exact size of the progenitor star's core. Previous theories suspected the object was a magnetar or pulsar wherein the super hot dense objected emitted vast amounts of energy as it cooled and hence this induced the X-ray brightness. The new theory posits that the object is an accreting black hole remnant.
But seriously, an announcement of an accoutrement? It is a little sad how this paper hiding in plane sight was overlooked by bloggers and science writers alike. Even blogs, like Bad Astronomy, that normally expose flimsy stories like this have taken it easy. I think all press releases should come with a warning, science in progress.
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