Earth’s ‘Black Hole Police’ Discover Gravitational Singularity Near Milky Way | Science and technology news
An international team of astronomers known as the “Black Hole Police” have discovered a dormant black hole located right next to the Milky Way.
The team, which includes Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Kareem El-Badry — himself nicknamed the “black hole destroyer” — is famous in the astronomy community for debunking new discoveries of gravitational singularities.
But this time they did find one, a rare dormant black hole discovered through observations of the Tarantula Nebula, part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, our nearest galactic neighbor.
“For the first time, our team came together to report the discovery of a black hole, rather than dismiss one,” said Dr. Tomer Shenar, a Marie Curie fellow at the University of Amsterdam, who led the study, which was published in the prestigious journal Naturastronomie.
dr Sehnar’s team found that the black hole formed from a star that disappeared without evidence of a violent explosion – “a needle in a haystack,” as he described it.
While scientists have proposed similar black hole candidates, the team believes this to be the first “dormant” stellar-mass black hole to be positively detected outside of the Milky Way.
Black holes at rest do not emit large amounts of X-rays, which is why they are usually detected.
Stellar-mass black holes are formed when massive stars reach the end of their lives and then collapse under their own gravity.
In binary systems, this process can leave behind a black hole that orbits in a dance with a glowing companion star — and that’s what the team thinks they’ve found thanks to observations from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT). .
It is at least nine times the mass of our own Sun and orbits a hot, blue star 25 times the mass of the Sun.
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“It’s incredible that we hardly know any black holes at rest, considering how common astronomers think they are,” explained co-author Pablo Marchant from KU Leuven.
“We have been searching for such black hole binary systems for more than two years,” added co-author Julia Bodensteiner, research associate at ESO in Germany.
“I was very excited when I heard about VFTS 243, which I think is the most compelling candidate yet.”
“The star that formed the black hole in VFTS 243 appears to have collapsed completely, with no evidence of a previous explosion,” said Dr. Shenar.
“Evidence for this ‘direct collapse’ scenario has surfaced recently, but our study arguably provides one of the most direct clues. This has tremendous implications for the origin of black hole mergers in the cosmos.”
The team says that despite being nicknamed the “black hole police force,” they are actively promoting the review of their study, which has been peer-reviewed.
They hope it will help other astronomers spot similar stellar-mass black holes orbiting massive stars — thousands of which are predicted to exist in both our galaxy and the Magellanic Clouds.
“Of course, I expect others in the field to carefully study our analysis and try to invent alternative models,” says Dr. El-Badry. “It’s a very exciting project to be a part of.”