Discovered black hole hidden in nearby star cluster: study

A new black hole 11 times the mass of the Sun has recently been discovered in a nearby galaxy.

The black hole was found hidden in NGC 1850, a large cluster of thousands of stars located about 160,000 light-years away from Earth in the nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The discovery was the result of a new methodology that could hopefully help find other hidden black holes in nearby galaxies, or even the Milky Way itself.

The discovery was made using the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO’s VLT) and a methodology that the lead scientist behind the discovery described as that of a detective.

“Just like Sherlock Holmes tracks a criminal gang for their missteps, we are looking at each star in this cluster with a magnifying glass in one hand trying to find some evidence of the presence of black holes, but not seeing them directly,” Sara. Saracino of the Astrophysical Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, who led the research now accepted for publication in Royal Astronomical Society monthly notices, said in a statement. “The result shown here represents only one of the wanted criminals, but when you have found one, you are on your way to discovering many others, in different groups.”

An artist’s impression of a black hole accretion disk. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The researchers used two years of data collected with the Multiple Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) that was mounted on ESO’s VLT in the Atacama Desert in Chile. MUSE was chosen because it can observe very crowded areas and allowed them to further investigate the clues leading to the black hole.

Researchers were first informed of its existence after noting the influence its gravity had on the five-solar-mass star in its orbit.

However, this was strange. Small “stellar mass” black holes have previously been detected in other galaxies. However, this was done by detecting their X-ray glow or the gravitational waves emitted when black holes collide with each other or with neutron stars.

Artist's impression of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Artist’s impression of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But most black holes generally cannot be detected that way and must be detected dynamically.

“When they form a system with a star, they will affect its motion in a subtle but detectable way, so we can find them with sophisticated instruments,” explained Stefan Dreizler from the University of Göttingen, who was part of the study.

Using the MUSE, the researchers found the star influenced by the black hole. Then, data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the University of Warsaw’s Optical Gravitational Lens Experiment were used to measure its mass and find confirmation.

What’s also remarkable about this discovery is that the star cluster it was hiding in is, on a cosmic scale, relatively young, only 100 million years old. For comparison, sharks have existed on Earth for at least 450 million years, which means sharks are more than four times older than this star cluster.

SNORKELERS SWIM with a whale shark, the world's largest fish, off the southern Maldives' Ari Atoll in 2012 (credit: DAVID LOH / REUTERS)SNORKELERS SWIM with a whale shark, the world’s largest fish, off the southern Maldives’ Ari Atoll in 2012 (credit: DAVID LOH / REUTERS)

But while this star system is very young, there are others that are much older and could be hiding their own black holes.

Hopefully, this methodology could lead to finding them.

Also helping is ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will open within the decade and help find even more of these undiscovered black holes.

“The ELT will definitely revolutionize this field,” Saracino said.

“It will allow us to observe considerably fainter stars in the same field of view, as well as to search for black holes in globular clusters located at much greater distances.”

The collision of two black holes, a tremendously powerful event first detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), is seen in this still image from a computer simulation released in February last year (credit: REUTERS)The collision of two black holes, a tremendously powerful event first detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), is seen in this still image from a computer simulation released in February last year (credit: REUTERS)

Black holes in clusters have been discovered before. In March, astronomers using the Hubble telescope found a massive concentration of black holes at the heart of the dense star system known as the globular cluster NGC 6397.
Black holes are regions in space that act like traps, according to Professor Tsvi Piran of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. You can get in, but nothing can get out, not even light, that’s why it’s called a black hole. It is impossible to see inside, not even to see directly.

A simulated image of a black hole.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)A simulated image of a black hole. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists weren’t even sure they existed 20-30 years ago. The only way we know the black hole exists is because it has a huge gravitational pull and this huge gravitational pull influences the matter around it.

Their nature is the subject of great scientific interest, but there is still much that is unknown about them.

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.



Reference-www.jpost.com

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