Almost but not quite in time for Halloween, astronomers announced on Friday that they had found the most famous black hole. It is a large, yawning shell of nothingness, 10 times as huge as the sun, orbiting as far from its star as it is from our earth.
Do not worry, however: this black cave is 1,600 light years away from the star Ophiuchus; The closest known black hole is about 3,000 years old in the constellation Monoceros. What sets this new black hole apart from the thousands of others already identified in our Milky Way galaxy, besides its proximity, is that it doesn’t do anything – it doesn’t attract a star close to its exit, it doesn’t seriously consume everything nearby. Indeed, a black hole slumbers, a silent killer waiting for the course of space.
Black holes are so dense that, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, not even light can escape. From this he does the most ambitious and violent things in nature; when they are fed, they can become the brightest objects in the universe, such as gas, dust, and even smaller stars are torn apart and heated to whiteness, spewing energy to approach the gates of eternity.
Most every galaxy has a mass of more than a million billion billion supermassive black holes; Scientists are not sure where they come from. Smaller black holes are thought to form from massive stars that have reached the end of their thermonuclear lives and collapsed. There are probably a million black holes in the Milky Way. They typically make themselves known by spewing X-rays as they expel gas from their partners in binary star systems.
But what about dormant holes that aren’t currently coughing up fire? Kareem el-Badry, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been searching for such hidden demons for four years. He found this black hole by analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s GAIA space agency, which has meticulously studied the positions, motions and other properties of millions of stars in the Milky Way.
Dr. el-Badry and his team discovered a star, almost identical to our sun, which was casting in a strange manner, as if under the influence of the invisible count’s gravity. To investigate further, the researchers commissioned the Northern Gemini telescope above Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which would be able to measure the speed and period of this wobble and therefore determine the relative masses of the objects involved. The technique is identical to the process by which astronomers analyze the radiation of stars to detect the presence of orbiting exoplanets – this time the prey was far greater.
Their results and subsequent calculations are consistent with a black hole of 10 solar masses similar to our star. They named it Gaia BH1.
“Take the solar system, the black hole where the sun is and the sun where the earth is, and you have this system,” Dr. el-Badry said in a news release from the National Optical and Infrared Laboratory that he passed. Gemini Northern Telescope.
“This is the closest known black hole by a factor of three, and its discovery indicates that there is a dormant population of black holes in binaries,” he and his co-authors wrote in a paper published Wednesday in Monthly Bulletin. the Royal Astronomical Society. Astronomers said the new discovery raised questions about the presumed understanding of how such binary star systems evolved. The progenitor of this black hole must be about 20 solar masses. According to leading theories, the death of the star and the subsequent formation of the black hole involved a supernova explosion and other processes that would have severely disrupted another, smaller star in the system. So why does another star appear so normal?
“It raises many questions about how this binary system was formed,” Dr. el-Badry said in a news release “and how many of these holes are black sleepers”.
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