Sat, Apr 09, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Curiosity led to discovery of black hole: astronomer

By Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese-American astronomer Ma Chung-pei (馬中珮), who played a key role in the discovery of a supermassive black hole, on Wednesday said that being able to keep her curiosity alive gives her patience and perseverance in her research.

Ma made the comments after NASA announced earlier in the day that a team of astronomers, led by Ma, discovered a black hole with a mass 17 times the mass of our sun in the center of a galaxy.

While finding a supermassive black hole in a large galaxy in a crowded area of the universe is to be expected — like running across a skyscraper in Manhattan — it would be much less likely to find one in one of the universe’s “small towns,” NASA said in a statement.

Ma said that the discovery has raised questions such as why a “skyscraper” of this size would exist in a “small town” and where the black hole got its mass.

The 50-year-old professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, said it has been eight years since she entered the field of black hole research, which she described as a black hole itself.

She said that she found black holes to be very interesting and that researching their nature can allow people to understand how the universe worked in the past.

In Taipei, Ma’s mother, Huang Chao-heng (黃肇珩), said that her daughter had shown great interest in astronomy ever since she was a child.

Huang, former publisher of the China Daily News and a former Control Yuan member, said that when Ma was young she would wake up in the middle of the night to watch a lunar eclipse.

Huang said she is very proud of her daughter.

She said her daughter is like a synthesis of herself and her husband, professor of journalism Ma Chi-shen (馬驥伸).

Huang said her daughter probably inherited her analytical spirit from her mother and her interest in science from her father.

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