A newly discovered black hole was hidden in a cluster of thousands of stars in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud.
It is 160,000 light-years from Earth and is 11 times the mass of the Sun.
Astronomers discovered the black hole using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory in Chile and looking at how its gravity influenced the motion of a nearby star, which is five times the mass of the Sun.
It’s the first time this technique has been used to reveal a black hole, and it could help researchers discover others in the Milky Way and other galaxies.
The more astronomers learn about black holes, the more they will understand how these cosmic objects form and change over time.
An article describing the discovery has been accepted for publication in the Royal Astronomical Society.
“Like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues to a gang, we are looking at every star in this cluster with a magnifying glass to find evidence of the presence of black holes, but not looking directly at them,” said Sara Saracino, research leader and member of the engineering and technology faculty at the John Moores University Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool, in a statement.
“The result represents just one of our suspects, but when you find one, you’re on your way to finding several others in different clusters,” said Sara.
Although black holes are difficult to detect, they tend to leave clues to their presence because of their actions.
Black holes emit X-rays when they swallow nearby matter or create gravitational waves when they collide with each other or with dense neutron stars.
But not all black holes are created equal. And this one is smaller than others that astronomers have already detected.
It was only noticed when astronomers saw the peculiar movement of one star among many.
“Most black holes can only be discovered dynamically,” Stefan Dreizler, study co-author and professor at the University of Gottingen in Germany, said in a statement. “When they form a system with a star, it affects its motion in a subtle but detectable way,” he added.
It’s the first time astronomers have found a black hole in a cluster of stars that’s also young — roughly 100 million years old, basically the age of a child compared to the rest of the universe.
In the future, astronomers can use this method to find other young black holes and understand their evolution, and compare them to larger black holes in older star clusters to see how they grow over time.
“Each detection we make will be important to our future understanding of star clusters and the black holes they contain,” said Mark Gieles, study co-author and research professor at the University of Barcelona, Spain, in a statement.
(Translated text. Read the original here.)
Reference: CNN Brasil