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Published:October 7th, 2012 10:45 EST
NASA's Swift Satellite Stumbles Upon an Unknown Source of Mass Energy

NASA's Swift Satellite Stumbles Upon an Unknown Source of Mass Energy

By Ron G Anselm

As NASA`s Swift Satellite glides around our massive galaxy in route to again where no man has gone before it tends to bump into and discover the unknown. Almost like when you were a kid on an Easter egg hunt; as you turned over every rock or lifted every piece of debris that could hide anything the size of an egg you never knew what you were going to discover, hoping to find one of the nicely colored Easter eggs that you could add to your Easter basket, lined with easter grass. As you ran around the back yard like an Olympic sprinter on the last leg of the 400-meter dash you were the one in tune with your surroundings and every hiding place imaginable an Easter egg could possibly be.

The same goes for NASA scientists, they are always sort of on an Easter egg hunt but of course not looking for Easter eggs in space unless you are the NASA Rover on Mars which is currently looking for anything and everything that could hide or be under anything on the surface of Mars. With what Rover has found and discovered lately in every rock and crevice I wouldn`t be surprised if it finds a little green colored Easter egg lurking somewhere under a little green piece of Martian space debris.

Recently as NASA`s Swift Satellite zoomed in and out of charging asteroids and blazing comets on its Easter egg hunt in space it came across a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from a source toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. A rare sort of x-ray nova from Swift gave scientists the impression that a stellar-mass black hole exists in that area of the Milky Way.

Neil Gehrels who is the mission`s principal investigator, at NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland commented on this find by stating, "Bright X-ray novae are so rare that they`re essentially once-a-mission events and this is the first one Swift has seen. This is really something we`ve been waiting for."(Gehrels, N.) X-Ray novae are a X-Ray source.

X-Ray novae to scientists are as short-lived as most marriages are today they are like finding the last Easter egg in the hunt, the novae are a short-lived X-ray source that appears suddenly, reaches its emission peak in a few days and then fades out over a period of months. The outburst arises when a torrent of stored gas suddenly rushes toward one of the most compact objects known, either a neutron star or a black hole. (nasa.gov).

NASA has named this short-lived entity Swift J1745-26 which is the sky coordinates of the location of where this nova is located. To drill down on a more accurate reference point of where it is the nova is located a few degrees from the center of our galaxy toward the constellation Sagittarius. (nasa.gov).

The nova is also about 20,000 to 30,000 light years away from our galaxy`s inner region. The nova was not easy for Swift to detect and took a lot of observing and monitoring to wait for the point of time it was most visible to scientists. The nova was about thirty-times brighter last week and continued to brighten as scientist took advantage of the visibility of it and the point of time when the most data could be collected.

Boris Sbarufatti who is an astrophysicist at Brera Observatory in Milan, Italy, who currently is working with other Swift team members at Penn commented on this by saying, "The pattern we`re seeing is observed in X-ray novae where the central object is a black hole. Once the X-rays fade away, we hope to measure its mass and confirm its black hole status." (Sbarufatti, B.)

This newly discovered black hole is thought to be a member of a low-mass X-ray binary (LMXB) system which also consists of a normal, sun-like star. In most black holes there is a space around them that is hollow and that area is known to scientists as a storage disk. Since the normal star within the system produces a steady stream of gas (not the same gas you and I emit when eating spicy food) but chemical gas in space and that flow of space gas enters and fills the space in the storage disk around the black hole which spirals inward, heats up as it heads toward the black hole, and produces a steady stream of X-rays. This data was then transmitted to Swift and then to NASA scientists.

So, the outburst of gas from the star also has certain conditions connected to it depending on the circumstances. Sometimes the stable flow of gas within the disk will depend on the rate that matter which flows into it. At various and certain flow rates the disk may fail to maintain the needed steady internal flow to get a good X-Ray internal flow may resort back and forth to two different conditions.

The first condition may be where a cooler and less ionized charge state could occur where the internal flow of gas just collects in the outer potion of the disk as if it were water collecting behind a dam.

The second condition may be where the flow of gas may be heated up and much hotter with more of an ionized charged state which would send a huge tidal wave of gas that surges towards the center of the disk.

John Cannizzo which is a Goddard astrophysicist said, "Each outburst clears out the inner disk, and with little or no matter falling toward the black hole, the system ceases to be a bright source of X-rays. Decades later, after enough gas has accumulated in the outer disk, it switches again to its hot state and sends a deluge of gas toward the black hole, resulting in a new X-ray outburst." (Cannizzo, J.).

This phenomenon, called the thermal-viscous limit cycle, helps astronomers explain transient outbursts across a wide range of systems, from protoplanetary disks around young stars, to dwarf novae where the central object is a white dwarf star and even bright emission from supermassive black holes in the hearts of distant galaxies. (nasa.gov).

So, black holes in space are as elusive as those Easter eggs are on those Sunday Easter Day egg hunts to NASA scientist but when discovering them is like hitting the winning home run in Game Seven of the World Series. If our universe did not have black holes lurking around that area we call space the scenario would be the same as going to a golf course to play your weekly Sunday round of golf, teeing off and finding out as you approached the first hole that the entire golf course did not have any holes in it to sink your ball into to, to hopefully shoot a round of golf to at least hit birdie.

Reference

NASA`S SWIFT SATELLITE DISCOVERS A NEW BLACK HOLE IN OUR GALAXY,

(http://go.nasa.gov/QLlkCH). Retrieved 2012.

The game of Major League baseball to the average American is more than just going to the ball park, getting that delicious ball park hot dog you overload with too much condiments and then you get that coke, you know the coke with the cup that the lid never fits tight on, so when you sit down the fluid spills all over your nicely pressed pants and for the rest of the game you look like you didn`t make it to the bathroom in time, no the game to the average American is tradition, a tradition that spans back to before the Civil War days, a tradition that has shaped our culture from the days of back alley street ball games to the present days of Ball Parks the size of floating battle ships. The game of baseball to the young Little Leaguer who looks up to the Major League home run hitter as if they were Super Heroes takes the game seriously. Keep an eye out for my next book on the Complete Game of Major League baseball. I will update you on the release date of it and when it will be available for sale in the market. Buy your copy when it is available and become part of the tradition of the game of baseball.