September 18, 2021 08:11 GMT
This is the first time that a medium-mass black hole has been shown to have caused such an event, according to the researchers.
in a Article – Commodity Recently published in the scientific journal The Astrophysical Journal, a team of astronomers led by Sixiang Wen, a postdoctoral researcher at the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona (USA), explains how they were able to determine the mass of a black hole from the fact that it devoured a massive star.
When this happens, what astronomers call a “tidal disturbance event” occurs. A star’s destruction is accompanied by a radiation outburst that can dwarf light from other nearby stars for months or even years.
The researchers analyzed the X-ray data emitted by the explosion, and compared them with sophisticated theoretical models, and determined that this explosion originated from a meeting between a star and a black hole that eluded observations for a long time and weighed about 10,000 times. more than the sun.
“The fact that we were able to catch this black hole while it was devouring a star provides an extraordinary opportunity to observe what would otherwise be unseen.” pointed out Ann Zablodoff, professor of astronomy at Arizona State and co-author of the paper. “Not only that, by analyzing the explosion we were able to better understand this elusive class of black holes, which can make up the majority of black holes in the centers of galaxies,” he added.
Dozens of tidal disturbance events have been seen in the centers of large galaxies that host massive black holes, and some have also been observed in the centers of small galaxies that can contain intermediate black holes. However, an average black hole has never been shown to cause one of these phenomena.
“Thanks to recent astronomical observations, we know that the centers of almost all galaxies similar to or even larger than our Milky Way are home to central supermassive black holes,” explained Nicholas Stone, senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Co-author of the study. “These giant planets vary in size from 1 million to 10 billion times the mass of our Sun, and become powerful sources of electromagnetic radiation when a lot of interstellar gas falls in their vicinity.”
For his part, Peter Juncker, also a co-author on the paper, points out that scientists still know very little about the existence of black holes in the centers of galaxies smaller than the Milky Way.
“Because of observational limitations, it is difficult to detect central black holes much smaller than a million solar masses,” he added.
The origins of supermassive black holes are still unknown, and according to Juncker, several different theories are currently vying to explain them. Meanwhile, astronomers believe that medium-mass black holes could be the basis from which supermassive black holes emerge.
Juncker concluded, “If we get a better handle on how many true intermediate black holes are out there, it can help determine which theories are valid for supermassive black holes formation.”
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