Newly discovered black hole may have formed before stars and galaxies

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Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is surrounded by black holes, but a recent discovery indicated that one of them is much more special than the others.

It has about 55 thousand 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 be the seed of today’s supermassive black holes and could help scientists estimate the total number of these objects in the universe, the researchers said.

The discovery of this “intermediate mass” or black hole of the Goldilocks type (which, as in children’s history, would be neither too big nor too small) was published in the specialized magazine Nature Astronomy.

It would be different from the small black holes made of stars and the supermassive giants found in the center of most galaxies,

The researchers estimate that there are about 46,000 intermediate-mass black holes in the vicinity of 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, created at the beginning of the universe before the formation of the first stars and galaxies,” 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 today in the heart of galaxies.”

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What is a black hole?

  • A black hole is a region of space where matter has collapsed on itself.
  • The gravitational pull 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 have billions of times the mass of our Sun.
  • Black holes are detected by the way they influence their environment.

How was it observed?

The explosion, a half-second flash of high-energy light emitted by a pair of fusing stars, had an “echo”, caused by the intermediate-mass black hole, which deflected the path of light on its way to Earth, from so that astronomers saw the same flash twice.

The software developed to detect black holes from gravitational waves was adapted to show that the two flames were images of the same object.

Co-author of the article, Professor Rachel Webster, of the University of Melbourne, describes the findings as “exciting”.

“Using this new black hole candidate, we can estimate the total number of these objects in the universe,” she said.

“We predicted that this could have been possible 30 years ago and it is exciting to have discovered a strong example,” he added.

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