One of the largest black holes spotted to date
Image taken from a computer simulation representing a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.
One of the most massive black holes spotted to date has been detected at the center of a galaxy located 2.7 billion light-years from Earth.
The celestial object has a mass equivalent to 32.7 billion times that of the Sun. By comparison, the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way is about 4 million times more massive than the Sun. The one just detected is at the upper limit of the size that black holes can theoretically reach.
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The celestial object is in the elliptical galaxy Abell 1201 BCG, itself located in the cluster Abell 1201 in the constellation Leo.
This image shows the galaxy Abell 1201 BCG and a gravitational arc.
L' team of astronomers led by Dr. James Nightingale, from the Department of Physics at Durham University, USA, managed to locate it thanks to the phenomenon of gravitational lensing.
A lens effect is generated by massive structures such as galaxies and galaxy clusters whose intense gravity field deflects light from background objects and makes it larger.
Computer simulations then helped the team closely analyze how the light was bent, which revealed the presence of the black hole.
- A black hole is a celestial object that has an extremely large mass in a very small volume, as if the Sun was only a few kilometers in diameter or the Earth was compressed in the head of a a pin.
- The concept of a black hole emerged in the late 18th century.
- Black holes are so massive that nothing escapes from them, not matter or even light. They are therefore practically invisible, so no telescope had managed to see one before 2019.
- There are several types of black holes. The primordials are very small in size. They would have formed during the big bang in the extremely dense regions of the primordial universe. Intermediates oscillate between 100 and 10,000 solar masses.
- Supermassive black holes are found at the center of most galaxies and their mass is millions or even billions of times that of the Sun.< /li>
This is the first black hole discovered using this technique, combining the lensing phenomenon and computer simulations.
Most of the larger black holes we know of are in an active state where matter attracted nearby heats up and releases energy in the form of light, X-rays and other radiation , explain the scientists in a press release published by the university.
However, the gravitational lensing effect now makes it possible to study inactive black holes, which does not #x27;was not possible until today in distant galaxies.
This approach will allow astronomers to discover many more inactive, ultramassive black holes than previously thought and perhaps understand how they got so big, the researchers continue.
< p class="e-p">The story of this discovery began in 2004 when Professor Alastair Edge of Durham University noticed a giant arc of gravitational lensing while analyzing images from a survey of galaxies.
It is thanks to the very high resolution images captured by NASA's Hubble telescope and the use of the DiRAC COSMA8 supercomputer from the University of Durham that Dr. Nightingale and his team were able to continue the work begun in the 2000s.
The details of this discovery are the subject of an article published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (in English).