(Credit: NASA; MIT; National Science Foundation; Palomar; National Radio Astronomy Observatory)
NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope has captured a picture of a distorted supernova remnant that may contain the most recently formed black hole in the Milky Way.
Usually, supernova remnants are more or less symmetrical: the explosion pushes with equal force in all directions at once, creating a spherical remnant.
That's not the case with a remnant called W49B, a remnant 26,000 light years away and 100 years old, as seen from Earth. Captured by three telescopes — "X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue and green, radio data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Very Large Array in pink, and infrared data from Caltech's Palomar Observatory in yellow," according to NASA — this image shows a remnant that is irregular in shape, indicating that jets shot with massive force through the poles of the exploding star.
The distribution of matter left behind also indicated an uneven explosion, with iron in only half of the remnant, while sulphur and silicon were more evenly distributed.
And, inside, there was no neutron star, as is usual for a supernova remnant. To the astronomers studying the data, this indicated that something else was inside: a black hole. If so, it would be the youngest black hole we've found in the Milky Way galaxy by at least 16,000 years.