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The team refined their models of the event and came to a surprising conclusion: having drawn in Dougie's stellar material a bit faster than it could handle, the black hole was now "choking" on its latest meal. This is due to an astrophysical principle called the Eddington Limit, which states that a black hole of a given size can only handle so much infalling material. After this limit has been reached, any additional intake of matter exerts more outward pressure than the black hole's gravity can compensate for.

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This pressure increase has a kind of rebound effect, throwing off material from the black hole's accretion disk along with heat and light. Such a burst of energy accounts for at least part of Dougie's brightness, but also indicates that the original dying star — a star not unlike our own Sun — wasn't going down without a fight.

Combining these observations with the mathematics of the Eddington Limit, the researchers estimated the black hole's size to be about 1 million solar masses — a rather small black hole, at the center of a rather small galaxy, three billion light years away. Discoveries like these not only allow astronomers to better understand the physics of black holes, but also properties of their often unassuming home galaxies.

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After all, mused Wheeler, "Who knew this little guy had a black hole? To get a simulated glimpse of Dougie for yourself, check out the amazing animation below, courtesy of team member James Guillochon:. The research is published in this month's issue of The Astrophysical Journal. A pre-print of the paper is available here.

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It indicates, "Click to perform a search". Close icon Two crossed lines that form an 'X'. It indicates a way to close an interaction, or dismiss a notification. Vanessa Janek , Universe Today.

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Two other corner mirrors were brought to the moon by astronauts on later manned lunar flights, on the Apollo 14 and the Apollo 15 missions. In addition, a second pair were built by French scientists and flown to the moon by the Soviet Union on their robot Luna probes.

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Corner mirrors are important scientific instruments because, when struck precisely by a laser beam, they reflect that beam in a parallel path straight back to the source of the laser. After these laser measurements were amassed for years, calculations by astronomers at the McDonald Observatory showed that as the moon orbits Earth, it creates a bulge of water that travels round the planet behind it.

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This bulge - which we experience as tides - exerts a gravitational pull on the moon, slowing it down as it circles Earth at a distance of , miles. As a consequence of being held back by this pull, the orbit of the moon becomes altered and it moves slowly away from Earth - at a rate of two-and-a-half inches a year. These measurements have, in turn, allowed scientists to carry out valuable tests of theories about relativity and gravity, added Shelus. A spokesman from the NSF told the Observer last week that, after carrying out two reviews, it had decided there was no longer "a strong science case" for continuing its year support for the lunar laser ranging project.

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It is, rather sadly, the end of an era.