Will Gaia be able to detect black holes passing near stars in the Milky Way

(ORDO NEWS) — The peculiarity of black holes is that they are difficult to see. It is usually possible to detect their presence only at the moment of fixation of gravitational attraction.

And if there are rogue black holes, just traveling around the galaxy and not connected to another star, it will be damn difficult to detect them. But now there is a new potential data set for this.

Gaia has just released its massive triple data set, which contains astrometric data for over 1.5 billion stars, about 1% of the total number of stars in the galaxy.

According to new work by Jeff Andrews of the University of Florida, Gaia may be able to detect perturbations caused by a black hole’s brief interaction with one of the 1.5 billion stars in the catalog.

Luminous stars are Gaia’s specialty, but many of them have “dark companions” that are not as visible as their light-emitting partners.

Not all of these dark companions are black holes – some of them may be dead stars that have already exhausted their fuel supply, but were not massive enough to form a black hole.

Gaia itself collects astrometry data, which determines the position, movement and magnitude of stars. Any interaction, however fleeting, with a black hole could potentially affect any of these metrics. You just need to understand what to look for.

Andrews notes that about 300,000 stars in the Gaia catalog show acceleration events. But, it is worth noting that under some very superficial assumptions about the content of dark matter in the Milky Way, none of these 300,000 observed accelerations is most likely due to an interaction with a rogue black hole.

But this does not mean that it is impossible to detect such an interaction using Gaia. Andrews thinks this is likely given the assumptions about how the galaxy itself works.

A rogue black hole transiently interacting with a luminous star is just a rare event that Gaia most likely did not record during the observation period.

But if another scientist finds evidence of such an interaction, then such a discovery will be a boon to the science of black holes.


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