Astronomers discovered and measured one of the largest black holes ever discovered thanks to a new technique which should allow us to learn more about those parts of the universe that do not allow the emission of light due to their huge gravitational field.
This black hole has a mass equal to more than 30 billion times that of the sun, according to a study published this week in a Scientific Journal of the British Royal Astronomical Society.
It is the first whose characteristics are determined thanks to the gravitational lens detection technique.
This phenomenon is caused by the presence of such a huge object – a galaxy or a supermassive black hole – that it distorts spacetime.
Thus, light from a distant source appears distorted when it passes close by.
But while a galaxy can be observed, a black hole cannot, because it is so dense that not even light can escape from it, making it invisible.
This time, the astronomers were “very lucky,” James Nightingale, an astronomer at Britain’s Durham University and first author of the study, told AFP.
They were able to observe light from a galaxy whose orbit is about 2 billion light-years away, confirming the presence of a body with a gigantic and invisible gravitational pull between the galaxy and Earth: a black hole.
Most galaxies are believed to harbor a black hole at their center. But until now, to detect their presence, it was necessary to observe the energy emissions they produce by absorbing material that got too close.
Or observe its influence on the orbit of the stars that orbit it.
thanks to hubble
The team arrived at the size of the black hole by analyzing the magnification of the foreground object in a series of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Using advanced computer models, the scientists were able to simulate the amount of light that is bent around the foreground galaxy where the black hole resides. They tested thousands of sizes of black holes before coming up with a solution that matched the observations.
The black hole, located in one of the galaxies of the Abell 1201 cluster of galaxies, is the first to be discovered using this technique.
However, these techniques only work for black holes that are close enough to Earth.
The gravitational lensing technique allows astronomers to “discover black holes in 99% of galaxies that are currently inaccessible” to traditional observation because they are too far away, the astronomer says.
There are about 500 gravitational lenses, at least one of which is now a supermassive black hole.
The astronomer and his colleagues’ discovery was based on computer simulations and images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope.
These observations confirm and explain those made 18 years ago by an astronomer at Durham University and a colleague of James Nightingale, Alastair Edge, who suspected the presence of a black hole at the center of the Abell 1201 galaxy.
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