August 9, 2022

The First Dormant Black Hole Discovered Outside Of The Milky Way

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The First Dormant Black Hole Discovered Outside Of The Milky Way

New research based on observations from the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has found an elusive type of black hole for the first time in a nearby galaxy.

Massive stars that die and produce dormant stellar-mass black holes are particularly difficult to find since they barely interact with their surroundings. This is due to the fact that dormant black holes, in contrast to most black holes, don’t release a lot of X-ray radiation.

This kind of black hole has not yet been “unambiguously discovered beyond our galaxy,” despite being thought to be a reasonably common cosmic phenomenon, according to the team of US and European experts who worked on the study.

The recently discovered black hole, known as VFTS 243, is at least nine times as massive as our sun and is one of two black holes that make up a binary system. It circles a bright, blue star that is 25 times as massive as our sun.

Given how prevalent scientists think dormant black holes to be, it is astounding that we scarcely know of any, according to research co-author Pablo Marchant, an astronomer at KU Leuven, a university in Belgium.

On Monday, the study was released in the scholarly journal Nature Astronomy.

The First Dormant Black Hole Discovered Outside Of The Milky Way

Process of Elimination

The astronomers examined 1,000 enormous stars (each weighing at least eight times the mass of the sun) in the Tarantula Nebula region of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy close to the Milky Way, to locate the black hole, which cannot be directly viewed.

According to coauthor Tomer Shenar, who was working at KU Leuven in Belgium when the project started and is currently a Marie-Curie Fellow at Amsterdam University in the Netherlands, the discovery was made through an exclusion procedure.

The stars that were a part of binary systems, or stars orbiting a cosmic companion, were first recognized by the astronomers. The companion was not observable in binary systems, so they turned their attention to those. Careful examination ultimately revealed that VFTS 243 was a hibernating black hole, he added via email.

“What we observe here is a star moving around something ‘invisible’ that we cannot see in the data frequently (every 10 days or so),” Shenar said. This star has a mass that is roughly 25 times that of our Sun.

“According to the study, this other “object” must be at least nine times as huge as our Sun. What may weigh nine solar masses and not emit any light? This is the key component of the analysis. We are left with only one option: a black hole (or a large, invisible alien).”

There may be others, but Shenar stated, “Only for this one could we prove the presence of a black hole unambiguously.”
The Fibre Large Array Multi Element Spectrograph (FLAMES) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope used six years of observations to discover the black hole. Astronomers may view more than a hundred objects simultaneously with FLAMES.

Black Holes Police

According to a news release, several of the study’s 40 authors are referred to as the “black hole police” in astronomy circles since they have disproved numerous earlier black hole discoveries.

According to the paper, more than ten black hole binary system findings made in the last two years have been called into question. They were certain, though, that their finding was not a “false alarm.”

We took every step possible to eliminate any other possibilities because we are aware of the difficulties, according to Shenar.

The study group claimed that they welcomed critique of their most recent findings.

Tomer Shenar stated, “In science, you’re never wrong unless someone shows you right, and I cannot know that this would never happen — I just know that none of us can identify a problem in the study.

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