Scientists may have discovered an example of an entirely new class of black hole – a class that is smaller than previously known.
Black holes are often found in so-called binary systems, where two stars once circled around each other, until one ran out of fuel and exploded.
These & # 39; supernova & # 39; explosions leave behind either a dense core called a neutron star, or – if there is sufficient mass – a black hole so that no light can escape tightly.
However, there was a gap between the closest known neutron star and the least massive known black hole for which no neutron stars or black holes were known.
Experts have searched data on 100,000 binary star systems until they found one with an unusually small black hole – only 3.3 times the mass of the sun.
The find can help physicists to understand the supernova process that forms black holes – which is the key to the formation of certain elements and the evolution of the universe.
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Scientists may have discovered an example of an entirely new class of black hole – a class that is smaller than previously known. Pictured, the impression of an artist of a black hole
Astrophysicist Todd Thompson of Ohio State University and colleagues analyzed data collected by the so-called Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment on the light emanating from around 100,000 stars in the Milky Way.
Changes in the light spectra of stars may indicate that a star revolves around another, possibly unseen, object like a black hole.
Looking for stars that might have an adjacent black hole, the team reduced the 200 that seemed to be of particular interest.
From this they were able to compile thousands of images of each of these galaxies captured by the 20 robot telescopes included in the Ohio State All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae program.
One star system stood out. This giant red star, named & # 39; J05215658 & # 39 ;, appears to provide about 3.3 times the mass of the sun orbit around a massive, hidden body – much smaller than any black hole previously known to the science.
& # 39; What we have done here is to think of a new way to find black holes, but we may also have discovered one of the first of a new class of low-mass black holes that astronomers have never known before, & # 39, said Professor Thompson.
Professor Thompson compares the search for black holes to date with a census that only counted people more than 5 feet 9 centimeters high – leaving experts an incomplete understanding of the total population.
In its current form, scientists had long been only aware of black holes with masses that were 5-15 times larger than those of the sun.
Meanwhile, neutron stars – the cool, dense, other possible product of a supernova that becomes a star – are only found at about 2.1 times the mass of the sun.
If neutron stars reached more than 2.5 times the mass of the sun, they would collapse themselves and form a black hole.
This left a hole in the bottom of possible masses for black holes that were not actually seen – until Professor Thompson and colleague identified J05215658.
Experts have searched data on 100,000 binary star systems until they found one with an unusually small black hole – only 3.3 times the mass of the sun. In the photo the super heavy black hole in the heart of the Melkweg Messier 87, which was shown in April by the Event Horizon Telescope
& # 39; We show this hint that there is another population that we should not really investigate in the search for black holes & # 39 ;, said Professor Thompson.
& # 39; If we could reveal a new population of black holes, it would tell us more about which stars explode, which don't, which black holes form, which form neutron stars.
& # 39; It opens a new field. & # 39;
The finding compliments the 2017 observation of two & # 39; giant & # 39; black holes – one 31 times the mass of the sun, the other 25 times – that merged into a galaxy about 1.8 million light-years away from the earth
The finding compliments the 2017 observation of two & # 39; giant & # 39; black holes – one 31 times the mass of the sun, the other 25 times – that merged into a galaxy about 1.8 million light-years away from the earth.
The observation was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which consists of two telescopes in Hanford, Washington State and Livingston, Louisiana in the US.
& # 39; Immediately everyone was something like & # 39; wow & # 39 ;, because it was so spectacular & # 39 ;, said Professor Thompson.
& # 39; Not only because it proved that LIGO worked, but because the mass was huge. Black holes of that size are very important – we had never seen them before. & # 39;
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science.
WHAT IS IN A BLACK HOLE?
Black holes are strange objects in the universe that take their name from the fact that nothing can escape their gravity, not even light.
If you venture too close and pass the so-called event horizon, the point from which no light can escape, you will also be captured or destroyed.
For small black holes you would never survive such a close approach.
The tidal forces close to the horizon of the event are sufficient to stretch all matter until it is just a series of atoms, in a process that physicists & # 39; spaghetti identification & # 39; to mention.
But for large black holes, such as the super-heavy objects on the nuclei of galaxies such as the Milky Way, which weigh tens of millions if not billions of times the mass of a star, passing the horizon of the event would be boring.
Because it should be possible to survive the transition from our world to the black hole world, physicists and mathematicians have long wondered what that world would look like.
They have turned to Einstein's general theory of relativity to predict the world in a black hole.
These comparisons work well until an observer reaches the center or the singularity, where in theoretical calculations the curvature of space-time becomes infinite.
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