Search for self-lensing black holes

(ORDO NEWS) — By studying data from the SuperWASP study, Britain’s leading extrasolar planet detection program, the team hopes to find changes in stellar light that could provide evidence for the existence of these black holes.

The most massive stars explode as they age, and what’s left of the star after the explosion condenses into an extremely small region – a black hole.

Containing about the same mass as our Sun and compressed into a space only a few kilometers across, black holes have a very strong gravitational field from which nothing – not even light – can escape.

This makes black holes difficult to detect, but they can often be found when material falls into them, a process known as feeding.

Due to the strong gravitational attraction, matter falls inward so quickly that it heats up and emits strong X-rays, which makes it possible to detect feeding black holes.

But not all of them are nourishing. The black holes the team is trying to find are hidden because nothing falls into them, so there are no X-rays to give them away.

Luckily, their gravity can still tell you where they might be. A black hole’s gravity is so strong that it can bend light from stars, acting like a magnifying glass that makes the star’s light appear brighter for a short period of time.

A team of researchers is poring over an archive of measurements spanning more than 10 years as part of the SuperWASP study in an attempt to find stars that have been enlarged by black holes. But there are a lot of stars to pay attention to, and this is not a job that computers can handle.

Adam McMaster, co-leader of the project, says: “I can’t wait to see what we find with the Black Hole Hunters project.

The black holes we are looking for must definitely exist, but none of them have been found yet. Our search should give us the first clues about how many black holes are quietly orbiting stars, which will eventually help us understand how such systems form.

Finding them is a huge task and we can’t do it alone, so it’s great that anyone with access to the Internet can get involved, no matter how much they know about astronomy.”


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