(ORDO NEWS) — A team of international experts known for debunking false black hole discoveries has discovered a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy neighboring our own Milky Way.
“For the first time, our team is reporting the discovery of a black hole instead of debunking someone else’s discovery,” said study lead author Tomer Shenar of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The team found that the star that gave rise to the black hole had disappeared, without any hint of a bright, powerful explosion.
“We are like our needle in a haystack,” Shenar said. Although scientists have previously discussed similar black hole candidates, Shenar and his team report that their study has unequivocally confirmed for the first time a dormant stellar-mass black hole outside the Milky Way.
Stellar-mass black holes form when massive stars reach the end of their life cycle and collapse under their own gravity.
In a binary star system, such an explosion leaves behind a black hole and a bright companion star. A black hole is “sleeping” if it does not show intense X-ray radiation, which is usually used to detect such objects.
This discovery was made using a six-year archive of observations made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).
This newly discovered “sleeping” black hole has a mass of at least 9 solar masses and is part of a system called VFTS 243, where in addition to it there is a hot, blue star with a mass of about 25 solar masses.
Dormant black holes are especially difficult to detect because they hardly interact with their immediate surroundings to produce electromagnetic radiation.
To find the VFTS 243 system, the collaboration searched 1,000 massive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud’s Tarantula Nebula for systems that could include a companion black hole in addition to the star.
Identification of companions such as black holes is especially difficult, since the observed signs of the presence of these objects can often be explained by other, alternative hypotheses, the authors explained.
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