The Glittering of the M87 Black Hole — An Interview with Dr. Maciek Wielgus

James Maynard
Oct 13 · 2 min read

A strange glittering is spotted around the supermassive black hole in M 87 — We talk to Dr. Maciek Weilgus of Harvard University who made the discovery.

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Maciek Wielgus of Harvard University vistis The Cosmic Companion to talk about his work finding an unexpected glittering around the supermassive black hole in the M 87 galaxy. Video credit: The Cosmic Companion

This week, we are joined by Dr. Maciek Wielgus, astronomer at Harvard University, speaking to us from Gdansk, Poland. We will discuss his work revealing glittering around the supermassive black hole at the center of the M 87 galaxy.

But first, we look at a new study identifying 24 exoplanets that appear to be even friendlier to life than Earth. We also see how superflares — powerful eruptions from stars — behave, and learn how they might affect life on other worlds. Then, we take a look at OSIRIS-REx, NASA’s first attempt to collect material from an asteroid, as the revolutionary spacecraft readies to touch the surface of the asteroid Bennu.

Maciek Weilgus of Harvard University talks about his work finding a strange glitter around the M 87 black hole. Video credit: The Cosmic Companion

Astronomers from Washington State University recently examined data from 4,500 known exoplanets, searching for worlds where life is likely to have developed. The researchers found 24 worlds which could be even more habitable than Earth. Such worlds would likely be larger, warmer, and wetter than our home planet, orbiting stars with exceptionally long life spans. These conditions could drive natural selection, increasing chances for the development of life on the alien worlds, researchers speculate.

An examination of 27 superflares erupting from stars show these events release significantly more ultraviolet energy than expected. Such eruptions, releasing vast amounts of radiation, could wipe out life on alien worlds. However, these eruptions were found to last just around 15 minutes, reducing the amount of time that lifeforms would be exposed to these potentially catastrophic events. This could greatly increase chances of life developing on worlds which orbit close to small, cool stars, researchers speculate.

NASA is preparing for their first sample collection mission to an asteroid, as OSIRIS-REx readies for a planned touchdown on the surface of Bennu. The asteroid is known to be composed partly of carbon-rich organic materials. The first attempt to collect material from Bennu will be made on October 20, with the sample scheduled to arrive at Earth in September 2023. This mission could help explain how the building blocks of life first formed on Earth.

Next week on Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, we will talk with Dr. Roberto Gilli from the National Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, joining us from Italy. We will talk about his recent discovery of six galaxies huddled around a supermassive black hole in the early Universe. Make sure to tune in for this interview, starting October 20.

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