Black holes are created when a supernova explosion destroys a massive star. Scientists have discovered dozens of black holes, but all of them are already formed. So, when scientists recently saw different distorted remains of a supernova, they knew it something special.
What the scientists believe they observed was the infant phases of a black hole, or the youngest black hole ever recorded in the Milky Way galaxy.
Caught on film by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the "remnant," or W49B, is seen as a vibrant swirl of blues, greens, yellows, and pinks. As seen from Earth, it is about 1,000-years-old and is located roughly 26,000 light years away. A typical black hole, like SS433, is thought to be between 17,000- and 21,000-years-old, as seen from Earth.
"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," Laura Lopez, who led a study on the remnant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a statement. "It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't."
Did explosion spawn Milky Way's youngest black hole? (pictures) See full gallery
Apparently, what led to the scientists seeing the supernova's distorted remains was a rare type of explosion that propelled matter at breakneck speeds along the poles of the dying star. Typically supernova explosions are symmetrical -- ejecting matter equally -- rather than oblong, as was the case with W49B.
"It's a bit circumstantial, but we have intriguing evidence the W49B supernova also created a black hole," said study co-author Daniel Castro, also of MIT. "If that is the case, we have a rare opportunity to study a supernova responsible for creating a young black hole."