Astronomers first discovered a sleeping black hole outside our galaxy

(ORDO NEWS) — In the Large Magellanic Cloud, an astronomer has discovered a black hole whose mass is nine times the mass of the Sun.

Black holes are not easy to detect. By definition, they are black, since nothing can escape them, not even light. Therefore, astronomers have to look for other ways to detect them.

One way is to look for gravitational waves, or look for powerful X-rays as they feed on matter. This means that quiet, so-called sleeping black holes are extremely difficult to find.

A team of astronomers looked at nearly 1,000 stars in the Tarantula Nebula, which is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Milky Way’s largest galactic moon. Among these objects was VFTS 243, whose signatures are consistent with a nine-solar-mass black hole orbiting a hot blue star almost.

The discovery, reported in Nature Astronomy, comes from a team that spent several years discovering dormant black hole candidates. So they were skeptical about it. After all, there may be other explanations that fit observations when you are about 160,000 light-years away.

“As a researcher who has debunked potential black holes in recent years, I was extremely skeptical about this discovery,” Tomer Schenar, lead researcher at the University of Amsterdam, said in a statement.

“When Tomer asked me to double-check his findings, I had my doubts.

But I could not find a plausible explanation for the data that is not associated with a black hole,” explained co-author from the Center for Astrophysics (Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution) Karim El-Badri.

Stellar-mass black holes like this form at the end of a massive star’s life. Many of them are formed after a star goes supernova, throwing some of the stellar material into interstellar space. But not this one. The team believes that it was a formation of a special kind.

“The star that formed the black hole in VFTS 243 appears to have completely collapsed, with no sign of a previous explosion,” Shenar added.

“Evidence for this ‘outright collapse’ scenario is recent, but our study provides perhaps one of the most direct indications.

This has huge implications for the origin of black hole mergers in space.”

The team is inviting other groups to check their results as it is only fair after so many years as “black hole police”. They hope that their approach, once VFTS 243 is confirmed, will lead to the discovery of many more such sites.


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