A supermassive black hole inside a distant quasar spins at about 336 million mph (540 million kph) or roughly half the speed of light, according to research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Scientists have measured the spin rates of black holes before but never one so far away. The newly measured black hole is inside a quasar some 6 billion light years from Earth.
A black hole is a region of space so packed with matter that not even photons of light can escape its gravitational grip.
Recent Observations Confirm Presence of Water Vapor on Dwarf Planet Ceres
“Recent observations of thedwarf planet Ceres by the European Herschel Space Observatory have revealed for the first time the presence of water vapor on this object in the Main Asteroid Belt.
This is a tantalizing discovery. Although the presence of water ice on the rocky objects of the asteroid belt has long been theorized, this is the first definitive detection and the first detection of a possible atmosphere on a Main Belt object. Further, the amount of water ice believed to be found on Ceres may be greater than all the water on Earth.”
Learn more from astronomer Ben Burress of Chabot Space & Science Center at KQED Science.
It’s Snack Time in the Cosmos
“Black holes, the ultradense collapsed objects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, are often depicted as voracious feeders whose extraordinary gravity acts like a one-way membrane: Everything is sucked in, even light, and virtually nothing leaks out.
Now, for the first time, astronomers may have a chance to watch as a giant black hole consumes a cosmic snack.”
Don’t Eat the Dirt on Mars: the Pros and Cons of Perchlorate
To be successful Mars colonists, future astronauts will need to know both the potential hazard and utility of the soil. One unusual compound that has garnered quite a bit of attention is called perchlorate; it has the potential to be both a blessing and a curse for future explorers.
Read more from our newest KQED Science contributor, planetary scientist Mary Beth Wilhelm.
The Cigar Galaxy Lights Up: Supernova 2014J
"Once upon a time in a galaxy 12 million light years away, a tiny white dwarf star went supernova — and for a few fleeting weeks was elevated in brightness to outshine the rest of the stars in its galaxy combined.
The far, far away galaxy is called Messier 82 and lies in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major (Big Bear, Big Dipper). Also known as the “Cigar Galaxy,” owing to its long narrow shape and maybe its ashy appearance in small telescopes, M-82 has been known to us since the late 18th century when Charles Messier observed and cataloged it during his search for comets.”