Mysterious birth of a black hole

Researchers using data froma NASA spacecraft have cataloged the mysterious birth of a black hole in deep space. The new black hole was pegged when astronomers noticed what they now refer to as a hybrid gamma-ray burst. While astronomers arent 100 percent sure, they are confident that this hybrid blast marked the birth of a new black hole. We really dont know what space object or objects exploded (or collided) to produce the new black hole. NASAs Swift satellite first detected the burst back in 2006. Since then, the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based telescopes have been turned to look at the burst site. According to a NASA official, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful known explosions in the known universe. They are random, fleeting, and never appear twice. We just can't figure out what exploded (in Indus), said Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. All the data seem to point to a new... kind of cosmic explosion. The 2006 hybrid burst has been cataloged as GRB 060614 (the date of its discovery) and it occurred in a galaxy far, far away 1.6 billion light years from Earth! The GRB 060614 event was located in the southern hemisphere constellation of Indus. With this said, it should be noted that by new we mean this black hole hatched 1.6 billion years ago. Thus, a new space object in deep space is a relative term. Astronomers said the 2006 burst lasted a mere 102 seconds, although this is considered long as far as gamma-ray pops go. Curiously, the burst didnt have the fingerprints of a supernova explosion. GRB060614 was close enough that had it been a supernova, Earth observers would have seen it. Herein lies the mystery of GRB060614. Swift was launched in 2004 and is a NASA mission in partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council of England. Penn State controls Swifts science and flight operations and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico provides all the gamma-ray imaging analysis. There are other records of so-called hybrid bursts with no associated supernova. Now a few astronomers are thinking that some new black hole-formation process may be underway maybe two or more stars merged or the culprit star explosion was somehow different from supernovae? GRB060614 is an exciting, deep-space mystery. Lou Varricchio, M.Sc., lives in Middlebury, Vt., and was a NASA senior science writer. He is currently involved in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program in Vermont.

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