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Bright flash may have been black hole being born

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Astronomers may have spotted the birth of either a black hole or a neutron star after investigating a mysteriously bright flash in the night sky.

The object was detected last June, suddenly flaring up and then vanishing within the Hercules constellation – roughly 200 million light years away from Earth.

After combining a range of different image sources, including X-rays and radiowaves, the team led by Northwestern University in the US believe they know what caused it.

According to Dr Raffaella Margutti, the twin telescopes of the ATLAS survey in Hawaii captured the exact moment that a star collapsed to form a compact object.

This object was either a black hole or a neutron star – both incredibly dense regions of space – and the stellar debris approaching the event horizon of the object was responsible for the flash.

“We think that ‘The Cow’ is the formation of an accreting black hole or neutron star,” said Dr Margutti, who led the research.

“We know from theory that black holes and neutron stars form when a star dies, but we’ve never seen them right after they are born. Never,” she stressed.










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First ever black hole virtual reality simulation

The Cow was up to 100 times too bright to be a supernova, said Dr Margutti, and disappeared too quickly too.

Particles were ejected away from it at a speed of 30,000km per second – or 10% of the speed of light.

It peaked within just 16 days, where typically supernovae can last for millions and billions of years.

“We knew right away that this source went from inactive to peak luminosity within just a few days,” Dr Margutti said.

“That was enough to get everybody excited because it was so unusual and, by astronomical standards, it was very close by.”

Dr Margutti will present her findings at the American Astronomical Society before the research is published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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<a href='https://news.sky.com/story/sky-views-11768048' target='_blank'>Podium protest against China's 'poster boy' shames swimming's governing body</a>

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<a href='https://news.sky.com/story/sky-views-11768048' target='_blank'>Podium protest against China's 'poster boy' shames swimming's governing body</a>

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Thirty injured as 1,000 firefighters battle wildfires in Portugal | World News

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More than 1,000 firefighters are tackling wildfires spreading in east Portugal, which have injured 30 people.

Homeowners tried to protect their properties from the huge fires with buckets of water and hosepipes as strong winds fanned the winds on Sunday.

Portugal’s Civil Protection Authority said more than 1,150 firefighters were working to contain the blazes, which broke out on Saturday across three fronts in the district of Castelo Branco, 124 miles (200km) north east of the capital Lisbon.

A firefighter passes while a wildfire burns the forest at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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There are 1,000 firefighters working to contain the blazes
Villagers help to put out a forest fire at the small village of Colos, Portugal
Image:
Villagers help to put out a forest fire at the small village of Colos, Portugal

Authorities said one injured civilian was taken to hospital and is in a serious condition after suffering first and second-degree burns.

Villages and fluvial beaches were evacuated as a precaution and 30 people are known to be injured.

Firefighters were being supported by 10 firefighting aircraft as well as hundreds of vehicles.

Some houses were affected by the fires but Portugal’s Civil Protection did not provide a specific number.

A villager holds a hose as a wildfire comes close to his house at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Villagers have tried to keep the flames away from their homes
A firefighters tackles a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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A firefighter tackles a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao

“The fire is out of control, without resources on the ground, and the population at risk,” Vasco Estrela, the mayor of Macao, told Portuguese radio station TSF. “We never thought we would live through this again.”

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the Portuguese president, said he would be in contact with the mayors in the affected areas.

A statement on the presidential website said: “Aware of adverse weather conditions, the President of the Republic conveys all solidarity to the men and women who fight them, as well as to the most directly affected populations, accompanied by all the Portuguese.”

Strong winds have made it more difficult for firefighters to tackle the blaze, but authorities said they hoped to have them under control soon.

One wildfire made its way to Macao, an area in the district of Santarum, in western Portugal where temperatures reached 34C (93.2F) on Sunday.

A car burns near at the small village of Vila de Rei, Portugal
Image:
A car burns near at the small village of Vila de Rei, Portugal
Firefighters help to put out a forest fire near the village of Vila de Rei
Image:
Firefighters help to put out a forest fire near the village of Vila de Rei

Images broadcast by Portuguese TV channel TVI showed villagers in Macao trying to protect their houses and animals as smoke filled the air, forcing many to wear masks.

“(It will be) an afternoon of intense work,” Belo Costa, a Civil Protection official, told reporters.

Police have opened an investigation on the fires, with local authorities considering it unusual that all blazes had started in a narrow time frame between 2.30pm and 3.30pm local time on Saturday in the same area.

In a statement, police said that a 55-year-old man was detained on suspicion of starting a blaze in the Portuguese district of Castelo Branco.

A firefighter monitors the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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So far eight firefighters have been injured
A villager tries to put out the fire as it gets close to his house at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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A villagers throws water on the fire as flames creep toward his home

One resident said: “The wildfire came with force. We [the residents] had to fight the flames.”

He said there were not enough firefighters, a worry echoed by Ricardo Aires, the mayor of Vila de Rei which has been affected.

The army is sending 20 soldiers and four bulldozers to help with the operation.

A villages holds a hose as a wildfire comes close to his house at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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There have been no wildfire deaths since 2017
A firefighter tackles a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal on July 21, 2019. - More than a thousand firefighters battled to control wildfires in central Portugal that have forced village evacuations, in a region where dozens were killed in huge blazes in 2017. The firefighters were deployed to tackle three fires in the mountainous and heavily forested Castelo Branco region, 200 kilometres north of Lisbon, according to the website of the Civil Protection. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
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The fires broke out on Saturday night

This is the first major wildfire in Portugal this year.

In 2017, 106 people were killed in some of the country’s deadliest fires on record.

The Portuguese government backed stronger firefighting prevention methods after the heavy death toll of that year and there were no wildfire deaths in 2018.

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UK to send 250 troops to Mali for dangerous peacekeeping mission | World News

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The UK is to send 250 troops to Mali in the biggest peace-keeping deployment since Bosnia and potentially the most dangerous mission for British forces since Afghanistan.

The soldiers will form a long-range reconnaissance task group, specifically chosen for their ability to operate in small teams and in violent, contested areas of the country.

They will be asked reach parts of Mali that most militaries cannot, to feed on-the-ground intelligence back to the mission headquarters in Gao. They will arrive in the country early next year.

A UN armoured vehicle
Image:
A UN armoured vehicle

“They will do the part of the heavy lifting. They will do the operations in very contentious areas… where we have a great deal of uncertainty. They will do operations where we face threats to us and to the civilian populations,” the UN Force Commander Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre explained.

Although wearing the distinctive light blue UN helmets and deployed with a peace-keeping mandate, it’s privately acknowledged that they will likely be targeted by extremist groups fighting for power in one of the world’s poorest and most dangerous countries.

The British deployment comes as security in Mali and the wide Sahel region has deteriorated rapidly in recent months, causing thousands of people to be displaced and a dramatic spike in deaths.

A range of violent factions – some allied to al Qaeda – are vying for influence, and Islamic State in West Africa has successfully established a foothold in Mali.

Such is the concern within the British government that a Joint Sahel Task Group has been established in London to address the potential threats from what is known as the G5: Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Guard at a checkpoint outside Gao in eastern Mali
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Guard at a checkpoint outside Gao in eastern Mali

A regional hub has been set up in Dakar and two new British embassies will open in Niger and Chad. Close to £10m will be spent on security and humanitarian initiatives in the region this year.

Albeit relatively small, the deployment has been welcomed by the UN in New York and is being seen in the British government as one of the most significant military commitments since Afghanistan and the fight against Islamic State.

Two RAF Chinooks flying low over Mali delivering troops and equipment to French forces
Image:
Two RAF Chinooks flying low over Mali delivering troops and equipment to French forces

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt travelled to Mali to make the announcement in person.

She said: “In one of West Africa’s poorest and most fragile regions it is right that we support some of the world’s most vulnerable people and prioritise our humanitarian and security efforts in the Sahel.”

France, with historical links in Mali, is the biggest military force in the country with more than 4,500 troops fighting Islamist extremists. The Paris government has paid a heavy toll for the five-year commitment, losing 15 soldiers and many more injured.

River Niger running through Bamako
Image:
The River Niger running through Bamako

Three RAF Chinook helicopters and around 100 personnel have been operating with French forces in the north of the country since 2018, in a non-combat role. The Chinooks have provided valuable heavy-lift to the mission, a capability the French don’t have.

That commitment was recently extended by a further six months to June 2020, viewed as a gesture of Anglo-French goodwill post-Brexit.

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