Newborn 30-year-old catches astronomers' eyes

The relatively spanking new black hole offers a rare chance to watch one develop from infancy, the authors said in a report to appear in the New Astronomy journal. Thought to be the youngest black hole in our cosmic "neighbourhood," it could help scientists better understand how huge stars explode, which ones leave behind black holes or neutron stars, and how many black holes there may be in our galaxy and others.

"If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed," said Daniel Patnaude of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

Astronomers believe the black hole is a remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100 approximately 50 million light-years from Earth. "It's very rewarding to see how the commitment of some of the most advanced telescopes in space, like Chandra, can help complete the story," said Jon Morse, head of the Astrophysics Division at NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Black holes are massive phenomena with a gravitational force so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape them; they are caused by the death of a giant star exploding into a supernova.

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