The “black hole police” discover a new dormant one

This content was published on July 18, 2022 – 15:10

Berlin, July 18 (EFE).- An international team of astronomers, known as the “black hole police” for their work disproving discoveries of these space elements, have discovered a new stellar-mass black hole in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to the Milky Way.

The lead author of the study published today by Nature Astronomy, Tomer Shenar, points out that this is the first time that this team “come together to publicize the discovery of a black hole, rather than to refute it”. .

“We identified a needle in a haystack,” says Shenar, who started the study at the KU Leuven center in Belgium and is now a Marie Curie fellow at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Although other similar candidate black holes have been proposed, the science team says this is the first “dormant” stellar-mass black hole to be unequivocally detected outside our galaxy.

Stellar-mass black holes form when massive stars reach the end of their lives and collapse under their own gravity.

In a binary system, consisting of two stars rotating around each other, this process leaves a black hole orbiting with a bright companion star.

The black hole is “dormant” if it does not emit high levels of X-ray radiation, which is how these spatial elements are normally detected.

“It’s amazing that we barely know about these dormant black holes, given how common the scientific community assumes they are,” says co-author Pablo Marchant of KU Leuven.

The newly discovered black hole is at least nine times the mass of our Sun and orbits a hot blue star that weighs twenty-five times the mass of the Sun.

Dormant black holes are particularly difficult to detect because they interact little with their environment.

“For more than two years, we have been looking for these kinds of binary black hole systems,” said co-author Julia Bodensteiner, a researcher at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Germany.

To find this black hole, dubbed VFTS 243, the team probed nearly a thousand massive stars in the Tarantula Nebula region of the Large Magellanic Cloud, looking for any that might have companions. black hole.

Identifying these companions as black holes is extremely difficult, as there are many alternative possibilities.

“As a researcher who has disproven possible black holes for the past few years, I was extremely skeptical of this finding,” admits Shenar.

This skepticism was shared by co-author Kareem El-Badry of the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the United States, whom Shenar dubs “the black hole destroyer”.

“When Tomer asked me to review his findings, I had my doubts. But I couldn’t find a plausible explanation for the data that didn’t implicate a black hole,” says El-Badry.

The discovery also offers the team a unique insight into the processes that accompany the formation of black holes.

The astronomical community believes that a stellar-mass black hole forms when the core of a dying massive star collapses, but whether or not this process is accompanied by a powerful supernova explosion is unknown.

“The star that formed the black hole in VFTS 243 appears to have completely collapsed, with no signs of an earlier explosion,” Shenar said.

“Evidence for this direct collapse scenario has only recently emerged, but our study provides arguably one of the clearest indications. This has huge implications for the origin of black hole mergers in the cosmos. “


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