PhD student from Malaysia part of team behind black hole discovery


A 27-year-old PhD student from Muar is part of a team that found evidence of a supermassive black hole in a galaxy approximately 38 light years away from Earth.

Nur Adlyka Ainul Annuar presented her team’s findings on Sunday in a paper titled “Black Holes, Green Galaxies, Old Stars & NuSTARs” at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The team – which used information from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) – focused on a galaxy named NGC 1448, where evidence of a supermassive black hole was found.

“These black holes are relatively close to the Milky Way, but they have remained hidden from us until now. They’re like monsters hiding under your bed,” said Nur Adlyka

She added that supermassive black holes are sometimes hidden behind gas and dust, saying that these black holes give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that the NuSTAR mission can detect.

Her colleague Peter Boorman from University of Southampton found evidence of another supermassive black hole in another galaxy called IC 3639.

Speaking on the findings, Nur Adlyka said that NGC 1448 is one of the faintest and most heavily obscured supermassive black holes known to date.

Asked about her background, Nur Adlyka said in an email to The Star that she was fascinated by outer space ever since she was a child, adding that she knew that she wanted to pursue astrophysics as a career when she was 13 years old.

“I was inspired after watching Armageddon and Apollo 13,” said Nur Adlyka, who is currently pursuing her PhD in Astrophysics at the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

The Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) scholar added that astrophysics is an interesting area of science where many exciting discoveries can be made, and said that she is eager to come back to Malaysia after completing her studies this July.

“I really want to go back home and give back to the country by offering my research experience,” said Nur Adlyka.

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