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Scientists discover bizarre region around black holes that proves Einstein right yet again

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Astronomers have observed matter plunging into the mouth of a black hole at the speed of light, proving a key prediction made by Einstein right, yet again.

In 1915, Einstein's general theory of relativity predicted that once matter gets sufficiently close to a black hole, the immense force of the space-time tear's gravity should force it to abandon a circular orbit and plunge straight in. 

Now, X-ray observations made with NASA's NuSTAR and NICER space telescopes have finally confirmed that this so-called "plunging region" exists. The scientists behind the discovery say studying it could reveal some fundamental mysteries about black holes and the nature of space-time. The researchers published their findings May 16 in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"This is the first look at how plasma, peeled from the outer edge of a star, undergoes its final fall into the [center] of a black hole, a process happening in a system around 10,000 light years away," lead author Andrew Mummery, a physicist at Oxford University, said in a statement. "What is really exciting is that there are many black holes in the galaxy, and we now have a powerful new technique for using them to study the strongest known gravitational fields."

Black holes are born from the collapse of giant stars and grow by gorging on gas, dust, stars and other black holes. The cosmic monsters have such a powerful gravitational pull that nothing (not even light) can escape their maws.

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But this doesn't mean that black holes can't be seen. Active black holes are surrounded by accretion disks — vast plumes of material that is stripped from gas clouds and stars and heated to red-hot temperatures by friction as it spirals into the black holes' mouths.

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