Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is surrounded by black holes, but a recent discovery has shown that one is much more special than the other.
It has about 55,000 times the mass of the sun. But what makes it so peculiar, according to the scientific community, is that it may have formed before the first stars and galaxies.
They believe that this specific black hole could germinate today’s supermassive black holes and help scientists estimate the total number of these objects in the universe, the researchers said.
The discovery of this “intermediate mass” or this goldilocks-type black hole (which, as in children’s history, would be neither too big nor too small) was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
It would be different from the tiny black holes made up of stars and the supermassive giants at the center of most galaxies.
The researchers estimate that there are around 46,000 medium-mass black holes near the Milky Way.
The new black hole was discovered by researchers at the University of Melbourne and Monash University through gravitational lenses that captured an explosion of gamma rays.
“This newly discovered black hole could be an ancient relic, a primordial black hole that formed at the beginning of the universe before the first stars and galaxies were formed,” said study co-author, Professor Eric Thrane of Monash University.
“These first black holes could be the seeds of the supermassive black holes that live in the heart of galaxies today.”
what is a black hole?
A black hole is a region of space in which matter has collapsed on itself. The attraction is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape it. Black holes appear after the explosive disappearance of certain large stars. But some are really gigantic and billions of times the mass of our sun. Black holes are recognized by the way they affect their environment.
How was it observed?
The explosion, a half-second flash of high-energy light emitted by a pair of merging stars, had an “echo” caused by the medium-mass black hole that deflected the light path on its way to Earth from that astronomer saw the same flash twice .
The software used to detect black holes from gravitational waves was adjusted to show that the two flames were images of the same object.
The article’s co-author, Professor Rachel Webster of the University of Melbourne, describes the results as “exciting”.
“With this new candidate for the black hole, we can estimate the total number of these objects in the universe,” she said.
“We predicted this could have been possible 30 years ago and it is exciting to have discovered a strong example,” he added.