Stephen Hawking, one of the most well-known figures in physics and astrophysics passed away in the night at his home in Cambridge, England.
Stephen Hawking’s studies on black holes for which he became famous remain crucial in the field of physics and astrophysics. I wonder if in the end he was still lucid enough to realize the bitter irony of dying on Albert Einstein’s birth anniversary. With his sense of humor perhaps his last emotion was amusement. He was an atheist so he didn’t have the comfort of a religion but that of the appreciation of life.
ESA’s Herschel space telescope has completed its mission at the end of April, but the observations it made continue to be a source of discovery. A study of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way performed on observations conducted between 2011 and 2012 identified a significantly warmer than expected gas that may orbit around it or fall towards it.
Two space telescopes, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) and ESA’s XMM-Newton, were used together to measure for the first time the spin rate of a black hole. The object of the study is the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy NGC 1365, which according to findings spins at near the speed of light.
Astro-photographer Robert Gendler put together several photographs of the spiral galaxy M106 (Messier 106, also known as NGC 4258) taken over the years by the Hubble Space Telescope along with those made by him and another astro-photographer, Jay GaBany, to create one of the most remarkable astronomical images ever produced.
The use of various space telescope allowed the discovery of black hole HLX-1 that survived a galaxy merger.