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A Milky Way twin swept by an ultrafast X-ray wind

19 January 2016 Astronomy Now

ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory has found a wind of high-speed gas streaming from the centre of a bright spiral galaxy like our own that may be reducing its ability to produce new stars. The Seyfert galaxy, known as IRAS17020+4544 and located 800 million light-years from Earth, has a supermassive black hole at its core with a mass of nearly six million Suns.

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Signs of second-largest black hole in the Milky Way

17 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers has found an enigmatic gas cloud, called CO-0.40-0.22, only 200 light-years away from the centre of the Milky Way. The cloud contains gas with a very wide range of speeds. The so-called velocity dispersion is best explained by the gravitational attraction of an intermediate mass black hole. If that is the case, then this is the first detection of such a body.

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Galactic merger reveals an unusual black hole that has shed its stars

5 January 2016 Astronomy Now

In this season of post-Christmas gym memberships, black holes have shown that they too can lose a lot of the weight of the stars that surround them. One unusually star-deprived black hole at the site of two merged galaxies could provide new insight into black hole evolution and behaviour, according to observations with the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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Pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies may be rarer than previously thought

22 September 2015 Astronomy Now

There may be fewer pairs of supermassive black holes orbiting each other at the cores of giant galaxies than previously thought, according to a new study. When two massive galaxies harbouring supermassive black holes collide, their black holes ultimately combine — a process that could be the strongest source of elusive gravitational waves, still yet to be directly detected.

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Quasars result from violent galactic mergers

20 June 2015 Astronomy Now

Using the Hubble Space Telescope’s infrared vision, astronomers have unveiled some of the previously hidden origins of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. A new study finds that quasars are born when galaxies crash into each other and fuel supermassive, central black holes.