Saturday February 27, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Black Hole

On this Day:

In 2020, the biggest cosmic explosion ever detected from a supermassive black hole in Ophiuchus galaxy 390 million light years away, (size of 15 Milky Ways), was published in “Astrophysical Journal”.

Now the event didn’t take place in 2020.  In fact, the event is thought to have taken place several hundred million years ago.

The explosion was an event so powerful that it punched a dent the size of 15 Milky Ways in the surrounding space. According to NASA, the Milky Way is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 km (about 100,000 light years) wide.  This makes the dent about 1,500,000 light years wide.

The eruption is thought to have originated at a supermassive black hole in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which itself is about 390m light years from Earth.

Simona Giacintucci, of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, the lead author of the study, described the blast as an astronomical version of the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980, which ripped off the top of the volcano. “A key difference is that you could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” she said.

Galaxy clusters are among the largest structures in the universe, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter and hot gas. At the heart of the Ophiuchus cluster there is a large galaxy that contains a supermassive black hole with a mass equivalent to 10m suns.

Although black holes are known as sinkholes that consume anything that drifts too close, they also expel prodigious amounts of material and energy. These jets occur when a disk of plasma accretes around the central black hole. When the inward flow reaches a certain limit, a proportion escapes being swallowed by the black hole and is redirected into jets that blast out in two beams perpendicular to the accretion disk at close to the speed of light.

In this case, scientists think a jet would have travelled in a narrow beam for a certain distance, then hit something in space, which caused the beam to explode outwards in a burst of radio emissions. Maxim Markevitch, of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a co-author of the paper, compared the process to a stream of air travelling down a drinking straw and then turning into a bubble at the end of the straw.

The first hints of the giant explosion were spotted by Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2016, which showed an unusual concave edge in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster. However, at the time the possibility of this being caused by an explosion was discounted due to the huge amount of energy required to create such a large cavity.

The latest observations combined data from Chandra and ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory and radio data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India to provide compelling new evidence for the gigantic explosion.

The observations confirm the presence of the curved edge and also reveal a huge patch of radio emissions tightly bordering the curve, which would correspond to the expected bubble. “This is the clincher that tells us an eruption of unprecedented size occurred here,” said Markevitch.

Scientists think the observed explosion may have occurred due to a spike in supply of gas to the black hole, perhaps when a galaxy fell into the centre of the cluster.

The amount of energy required to create the cavity in Ophiuchus is about five times greater than the previous record holder, an event in a galaxy cluster called MS 0735.6+7421, and hundreds and thousands of times greater than typical clusters (per

First, a Story:

A black hole walks into a bar and orders a beer.

The bartender then asks: “Would you like any food with that?” The Black hole replies: “No thanks, I’m a light eater.”

Second, a Song:

“Supermassive Black Hole” is a song by English rock band Muse. Written by Muse lead singer and principal songwriter Matt Bellamy, it was released as the lead single from the band’s fourth studio album, Black Holes and Revelations (2006), on 19 June 2006, backed with “Crying Shame”.

The song charted at number four on the UK Singles Chart, the highest singles chart position the band has achieved to date in the United Kingdom. In October 2011, NME placed it at number 74 on its list “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”. It was nominated for the Kerrang! Award for Best Single.

“Supermassive Black Hole” has been described as alternative rock, dance-rock, and funk rock. Bellamy said that the song was “the most different to anything we’ve ever done.” Influences included bands such as The Beatles, and several Belgian bands; Millionaire, dEUS, Evil Superstars and Soulwax. Bellamy said that “these groups were the first to mix R&B rhythms with alternative guitar. We’ve added a bit of Prince and Kanye West. The drumbeat isn’t rocky, with Rage Against the Machine riffs underneath. We’ve mixed a lot of things in this track, with a bit of electronica; it’s different, slow, quite funky.” In an interview with NME, Bellamy said “I was going out dancing in clubs around New York. That helped create tracks like ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. Franz Ferdinand would have done it very well, with that dance type beat going on mixed with alternative guitar and I’ve always wanted to find that.”

NME gave the song a score of 8.5 out of 10, describing it as “dirty funk guitars rub[bing] saucily against a Prince-ish falsetto over a pink leather couchette”.

The song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2015 (per Wikipedia).

Here is Supermassive Black Hole.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“If space is a fabric, then of course fabrics can have ripples, which we have now seen directly. But fabrics can also rip. Then the question is what happens when the fabric of space and time is ripped by a black hole?” –  Michio Kaku

In response to the Radar Smile, the Rev. Bob Beasley of Grimsby, Ontario, Canada writes:

“Great info on the development of radar. I recently read a wonderful book on the life of Winston Churchill and his family during the Battle of Britain titled “The Splendid and the Vile” by one of my favourite authors Erik Larson.

The book does a great job in describing the political posturing that took place in the development of radar in the UK. I highly recommend the book for all who are interested in the Churchill family, the UK during the Battle of Britain and the development of radar.

Now, a bit of Canadian history regarding radar. Most Canadians have no idea that the first training for many of the British radar operators in the UK actually took place in Canada.  It remained a secret for many years even after the war.

Clinton is a small community 75 kms north of London Ontario, near the shores of Lake Huron. The RAF decided to build a base nearby for radar training because of the need for secrecy and security – they wanted this base far from Britain and the Germans.

The website gives a brief history:

No. 1 R&CS ( Radar and Communications School) at RAF (Royal Air Force) Clinton was first opened in 1941 under British control, though it became RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Clinton in 1943.  It was vital to training radar personnel during the Second World War, the first people trained being American Navy and Marine Corps. 

This was important because it provided more manpower for the British but was also located away from Europe where the action was taking place.

It was chosen because of its location.  Clinton is on Lake Huron, and the coast gives a similar feel to England.  As well it was secluded enough to be private, but close enough to cities if needed.  There was also an RAF flying school north of Goderich which could be used in their training.

Clinton, officially CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Clinton on April 01, 1966, was still important in the Cold War.   It continued to be used to train those people who worked on the Dew Line and Pinetree Line.  In the 1960s almost all airmen in Canadian Forces studied at Clinton at some point in their career.

The radome that was located at Clinton was built in this period as well. 

From 1948-1962 a guided missile school also operated out of Clinton.  As well, the School of Food Services was located at Clinton as of September 1954 and the School of Instructional Technique (originally at Trenton) after May 1962.

In the early 1970s, Clinton was sold and became the city of Vanestra, with the Radar and Communications School being relocated to Kingston.  In its time, Clinton trained more than 40 000 people.

I hope you found this an interesting addition to your excellent history of radar.

Blessings, Bob”



Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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