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Scientists Say A Supermassive Black Hole Glitched, Inexplicably Turning Off And On Again

The corona at the center of a black hole abruptly disappeared and then reformed, essentially turning the black hole off and then starting up again.

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Photo Credit: NASA

(TMU) – Supermassive black holes are already recognized as some of the most bizarre objects in the universe. Past their high-energy coronas, inside the event horizons, the known laws of physics seem to shut down.

But recently, astronomers observed something happening to a black hole that seemed impossible even by the object’s own outlandish standards.

About 100 million light-years away, the super-hot, ultra bright corona at the center of a supermassive black hole (1ES 1927+654) abruptly disappeared and then reformed, essentially turning the black hole off and then starting up again, as though it had glitched. It is the first time such a phenomenon has ever been documented.

Lead author of the study, Claudio Ricci, remarked,

“It was so strange that at first we thought maybe there was something wrong with the data. When we saw it was real, it was very exciting. But we also had no idea what we were dealing with; no one we talked to had seen anything like this.”

Ricci and the other MIT astronomers studying the event believe a rogue star may have caused a massive “tidal disruption,” that may have acted like “a pebble tossed into a gearbox,” which subsequently caused the entire corona of highly charged particles to come collapsing into the black hole.

As a result, the black hole’s brightness diminished precipitously, dimming by a factor of 10,000 in under a year.

“We expect that luminosity changes this big should vary on timescales of many thousands to millions of years,” Erin Kara, assistant professor of physics at MIT and co-lead on the study, explained. “But in this object, we saw it change by 10,000 over a year, and it even changed by a factor of 100 in eight hours, which is just totally unheard of and really mind-boggling.”

So, from the point of view of scientists on Earth, the black hole seemed to just eat itself, close up shop, and disappear from radar, something corroborated by multiple telescopes and observed in X-ray, optical, and ultraviolet wave bands. But that wasn’t the end. Since the core singularity of the black hole still existed, it began to gobble up particles again and spin up a new accretion disk, re-generating its old luminosity in only months.

The MIT team first discovered the anomaly in March 2018, when they recorded an active galactic nucleus (AGN) using ASSASN, the All-Sky Automated Survey for Super-Novae. They also observed the black hole with NASA’s NICER, an X-ray telescope mounted to the International Space Station.

“This seems to be the first time we’ve ever seen a corona first of all disappear, but then also rebuild itself, and we’re watching this in real-time,” Kara recalls“This will be really important to understanding how a black hole’s corona is heated and powered in the first place.”

Kara and her co-authors believe the sudden “glitch” could be caused by the accretion disk’s magnetic field lines collapsing. They published their findings in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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Science & Technology

Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

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Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The study’s co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

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To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvellous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighbourhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

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Neuroscience

Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field

A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

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Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field
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A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

The study published last month in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness is entirely based off a theory absent of tangible evidence. However, the author of the research Johnjoe McFadden said that his hypothesis could offer a way forward for robots that think and feel emotions.

McFadden believes that neuron waves of electrical activity get sent out and as they propagate across the brain, they help compose our entire conscious experience.

Johnjoe McFadden, is a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey. McFadden points to flaws in other models of consciousness as the reason that we don’t have sentient artificial intelligence or robots capable of achieving consciousness.

McFadden’s hypothesis swerves away from most traditional neuroscientists, who generally see consciousness as a narrative that our brain constructs out of our senses, perceptions, and actions. Instead, McFadden returns to a more empirical version of dualism — the idea that consciousness stems from something other than our brain matter.

McFadden’s theory adapts the idea of “dualism,” which is the belief that consciousness is a supernatural force. Dualism has long been rejected by scientists and ruled pseudo-science, but McFadden has attempted to apply a scientific explanation for the idea, which hasn’t been done before.

Neuroscience news reports that the theory is based on scientific fact:

“The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.”

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It’s also a fact we have an electromagnetic field surrounding our brain is well-known and is detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function and supernatural. Instead, McFadden contends that the brain’s information-rich electromagnetic field is, in fact, itself the seat of consciousness, driving the ‘free will’ of an individual.

“How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,” McFadden said in a press release published by Medical Xpress. “I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions.”

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Science & Technology

Nobel Prize Winner Says There Were Universes Before The Big Bang And We Can See The Evidence

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Nobel Prize Winner Says There Were Universes Before The Big Bang And We Can See The Evidence
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.” 

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

Would you argue with a Nobel Prize winner in physics? How about the late Stephen Hawking? Then good luck disputing this theory by Sir Roger Penrose, who won this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for his work proving that black holes exist. In congratulatory interviews, Sir Penrose has discussed his belief in “Hawking points” – radiation leaked by evaporating black holes (a Stephen Hawking concept) which remains as an anomalous region in space after the black hole is gone. Penrose then adds his own spin on Hawking points:

“The existence of such anomalous regions, resulting from point-like sources at the conformally stretched-out big bang, is a predicted consequence of conformal cyclic cosmology, these sources being the Hawking points of the theory, resulting from the Hawking radiation from supermassive black holes in a cosmic aeon prior to our own.”

In a cosmic aeon prior to our own.” In other words, in a universe prior to the one that began with the Big Bang. In his recent paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Penrose links these Hawking points to his own theory of conformal cyclic cosmology – that the universe dies and is reborn infinitely, with each being created by its own Big Bang. He suggests that not everything is destroyed in the death of a universe and believes that Hawking points are survivors of a previous one.

“I think it’s a bad thing to get a Nobel prize too early. I know scientists who got their prize too early and it spoiled their science. If you’re going to get a Nobel prize for science it’s good to get in when you’re good and old, before you’re absolutely clapped out, when there is still something to do, that’s my advice.”

Before you attempt to disprove Sir Roger Penrose’s theory on Hawking points, consider that he’s been working on it since the 1964 publication of his paper, “Gravitational Collapse and Space-Time Singularities”, and spent much time working with Stephen Hawking, including together winning the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1975 and the Wolf Foundation Prize for Physics in 1988. Despite all of those awards and one-half of the 2020 Nobel for Physics (the other half was awarded jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their work on black holes), Sir Penrose’s theory, like that of the Big Bang in general, is controversial and not universally accepted – in this or any previous universe.

“Sadly, this award was too much delayed to allow Hawking to share the credit with Penrose.”

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In an interview with The Telegraph, Professor Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge, agrees with Penrose’s idea that it’s better to get the award late in life, but this one was sadly too late for Stephen Hawking to share with him.

Perhaps they will … in the next universe.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

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Science & Technology

Supermassive Black Holes May Actually Be Wormholes In Disguise

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Supermassive Black Holes May Actually Be Wormholes In Disguise
Photo Credit: Pexels

Paul SeaburnGuest Writer

One of the many phrases that sound like they belong in science fiction rather than science is “wormhole mouth.” It’s basically the opening at either end of one of these theoretical space-time tunnels, but Mikhail Piotrovich, an astrophysicist at the Central Astronomical Observatory in Saint Petersburg, Russia, goes even further in a new paper he lead-authored and points out that a “wormhole mouth” may actually disguise itself as a supermassive black hole. Not only that, Piotrovich believes he can identify a unique characteristic that exposes the secret identity of a wormhole-in-disguise and it could possibly be a human traversable time portal.

“What surprises me most of all is that no one has proposed this idea before, because it is rather simple.”

Piotrovich’s simple idea, described in an interview with Space.com, is that a certain kind of supermassive black hole known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN) is actually a wormhole in hiding. As the name suggests, an AGN sits at the center of an ‘active’ galaxy – one that is actively feeding its supermassive black hole, which is at the center of the AGN. The friction from the gas and dust falling from the accretion disk into the supermassive black hole creates jets of bright light and the combination of the three – disk, jets and black hole – create the AGN.

Or the wormhole mouths?

In an email to Vice, Piotrovich proposes that if supermassive black holes were actually wormhole mouths, it would mean they could be connected by a ‘wormhole throat’ linking them across space and time – allowing time travel. He then proposes that if each wormhole mouth gets entered, a collision is possible in the ‘throat’ which would cause emissions of high-energy gamma rays that are different from the light of the accretion disk.

“Accretion disks of AGN don’t emit gamma radiation, because their temperature is too low for that. Secondly, jets have a very specific radiation pattern, i.e. most of the gamma radiation is directed along the direction of the jet.”

In other words, find the gamma radiation at the center of a galaxy and you’ve found a wormhole mouth! The bad news (other than the fact that wormholes haven’t been proven empirically to exist) is that our own Milky Way is not an active galaxy, which means the closest supermassive black hole is just a supermassive black hole. Moreover, just because a wormhole is big enough for a human or a spaceship to enter, it doesn’t mean it’s safe – after all, an active galactic nucleus still contains a matter-gulping, jet-spewing supermassive black hole.

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Even if we are thousands of lifetimes from entering a wormhole mouth and traveling through time, it’s still exciting to know that we’re a little bit closer to finding one.

Recommended Articles by Paul Seaburn
About the Author

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as “The Tonight Show”, “Politically Incorrect” and an award-winning children’s program. He’s been published in “The New York Times” and “Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humour. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humour to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn’t always have to be serious.

Please SHARE this article with your family and friends.

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