Scientists may have located a supermassive black hole with a mass of 30 billion times the mass of our Sun hiding in an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Black holes are born when massive stars several times the size of our Sun run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves in an amazing way. The resulting singularity is incredibly dense, and boasts a gravitational pull so strong that even light cannot escape.
Astronomers trying to unlock the secrets of these voracious singularities must grapple with a unique cosmological problem: How do you make sense of something you can’t physically see?
Want to know how we have it # astronomers included @jwnightingale22 Using gravitational lensing to discover a black hole weighing 30 billion times the mass of our Sun? Check out our demo video here 👉 https://t.co/1e96uYXH5t#DUInspire
– Durham University (@durham_uni) March 30, 2023
As their name suggests, black holes don’t emit any light of their own, and they don’t have conventional surfaces that a nearby light source could reflect off. However, scientists can still shed light (pun intended) on the nature of black holes by studying how they affect the surrounding universe.
For example, feeding black holes pulls material from nearby clouds, planets, and stars, which becomes extremely hot as they approach the event horizon, emitting visible light, X-rays, and other forms of radiation.
Because of this, feeding black holes are relatively easy to see and understand. On the flip side, black holes that don’t actively consume mass are extremely difficult to detect.
In a new study, scientists were able to discover the existence of a hidden Leviathan black hole by solving the mystery behind the creation of an arc of light. In an image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA Black Hole Gallery
The strange curve in the Hubble image — which can be seen in the demo video embedded above — was created by a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, in which the impact of a massive object distorts the path of light traveling toward Earth from a distant background light source. , like the galaxy.
A team of scientists ran a series of supercomputer simulations Try to determine the source of the lens captured the image. Each recreation explores how the presence of black holes of varying masses embedded in a foreground galaxy can cause the light from the distant background galaxy to be bent in different ways.
The team discovered that they could recreate the unique lensing seen in the Hubble image by inserting into the simulation a monstrous black hole, which, embedded at the heart of the nearest galaxy, has a mass equivalent to 30 billion suns.
If the singularity does indeed exist as the simulations suggest, it would be “one of the largest masses of black holes ever measured, and qualifies it as a supermassive black hole,” according to the new paper. Published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. However, the authors also note that more investigation will be needed to “draw firm conclusions.”
Scientists hope their research will lead to a deeper understanding of the supermassive black holes that lurk at the heart of every major galaxy.
Anthony is a freelance contributor covering science and video game news for IGN. He has more than eight years of experience covering breaking developments in multiple scientific fields and there is absolutely no time to fool you. Follow him on Twitter @BeardConGamer
Image credit: NASA, ESA, D. Coe, J. Anderson, and R. van der Marel (STScI)