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Astronomers witness birth of black hole
Posted: Thu, May 12, 2005, 6:50 AM ET (1050 GMT)
Astronomers announced this week that they observed a brief gamma-ray burst that they believe signals the birth of a new black hole. The burst, which lasted only 50 milliseconds, was detected May 9 by NASA's Swift spacecraft, which was able to turn its other instruments to focus on the location of the burst within a minute to observe its afterglow. The brief afterglow, visible for only five minutes using an x-ray telescope and not at all at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths, leads scientists to believe that the burst was triggered by the collision of two neutron stars or older black holes, forming a new black hole in the process. The observations appear to confirm the "merger" model for the formation of some low-mass black holes.
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