A hitherto undetected black hole announced its presence to astronomers when it tore apart and swallowed a wandering star too close.
A medium-mass black hole in a dwarf galaxy located millions of light-years from Earth star an alum in an event astronomers call a Tidal Disruption Event (TDE). TDE made itself visible when it blew out a burst of radiation so strong that it briefly outshine every star in its home dwarf galaxy.
This TDE could help scientists better understand the relationship between galaxies and the black holes in them. Even astronomers with another central black hole to study. “This discovery has created a widespread movement because we can use tidal disruption events not only to find more intermediate-mass black holes in quiescent galaxies, but also to measure their masses,” research co-author and UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) astronomer Ryan Foley said a * it is said (Opens in a new tab).
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It is designed to burn TDE AT 2020 (Opens in a new tab)— first used by astronomers in the Young Supernova Experiment (YSE), an astronomical survey that detects brief cosmic events such as supernova explosions, just as a black hole begins to devour a star.
The observation of this initial destruction was vital in allowing an international team of UCSC scientists and research lead author and Charles Niels Bohr institute astrophysicist Charlotte Angus to measure the mass of the black hole, finding it to be around between rounds. 100,000 and 1 million to the mass of the sun. (Opens in a new tab)
TDEs have been successfully used to measure the mass of supermassive black holes in the past, but this is the first time it has been demonstrated to document the masses of smaller midsized intermediate black holes.
That means the initial look at the incredibly fast flare of AT 2020neh could be set to measure midsized black hole masses in the future.
“The fact that we were able to capture this medium black hole while it was devouring the star gave us an opportunity to make a remarkable discovery that would otherwise have been hidden from us,” Angus said. “Indeed, we can use flare properties to better understand this elusive group of medium-mass black holes, which could account for many of the black holes at the centers of galaxies.”
This type of midsized black holes have a radius of between 100 and 100,000 suns, they are significantly more massive than the mass of stellar black holes but much smaller than the supermassive black holes that sit at the heart of most galaxies, including. Milky Way.
Scientists have long suspected that supermassive black holes, which can have masses as large as millions or even billions of times that of the sun, could have grown to these enormous sizes from the sinking of intermediate-mass black holes.
One theory about the mechanism that facilitates this growth suggests that the early universe was rich with interstellar dwarf galaxies possessing black holes.
When these dwarf galaxies merged or were absorbed by larger galaxies, the intervening black holes cannibalized each other, thus increasing in mass. This chain of more and more merging processes would eventually lead to the supermassive black hole titans that sit at the heart of most galaxies today.
“If we can understand the multitude of intermediate black holes out there — how many there are and where they’re located — we can help determine if our theories of supermassive black holes are correct,” co-author and UCSC professor of astronomy. and astrophysics, said Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz.
One problem remains with this theory of black hole growth is that all dwarf galaxies have their intermediate mass black hole. This is a difficult question to answer because, as black holes capture light beyond an outer boundary called the event horizon, they are effectively invisible unless they are fed by surrounding gas and dust, or if they tear apart stars in TDEs.
Astronomers can use other methods, such as observing the gravitational influence of stars orbiting them, to infer the presence of black holes. These detection methods are currently not sensitive enough to be applied to the distances of black holes in the centers of dwarf galaxies, however.
As a result, few intermediate black holes have been investigated for dwarf galaxies. That way, detecting and measuring medium-sized TDE black holes like AT 2020neh could be a vital tool in settling the debate about supermassive black hole growth.
The team’s research was published in the Nov. 10 journal Nature Astronomy (Opens in a new tab).
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