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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Black hole illuminates dust cloud
The black hole weighs 25 times more than the Sun

A University of Leicester scientist has played a role in discovering a giant cloud of dust which is illuminated by a black hole.

Professor Martin Ward's discovery is only the second of its type.

Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust which are usually only visible when lit up by stars.

The new find was in a dwarf irregular galaxy known as Holmberg II. It is illuminated by X-rays from a larger than normal black hole.

Professor Ward worked on the discovery with Philip Kaaret and Andreas Zezas from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

The Hubble Space Telescope was used
Professor Ward said: "This is a good example of what can be achieved by combining information from different satellites.

"The Chandra satellite gave us clues in X-rays, and the Hubble Telescope gave us information in the visible.

"By putting these pieces of the jigsaw together, we have challenged the current theories of black hole formation."

The only other example of a nebula being illuminated by a black hole is LMC X-1 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

However, the Holmberg II discovery is different because the black hole involved is an intermediate mass black hole, which is many times larger than normal stellar black holes.

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