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Astrophysicists may have found a medium-mass black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy

Astrophysicists may have found a medium-mass black hole in the Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda galaxy, as seen from Myanmar in December 2017.

Andromeda galaxy, as seen from Myanmar in December 2017.
picture: YE AUNG THU / AFP (Getty Images)

A team of astrophysicists believes that a ball of stars in our neighboring galaxy is hiding a medium-mass black hole, a type that would be expected but not observed with certainty.

The globular cluster in question is called B023-G078, and is located on the outskirts of the Andromeda Galaxy, about 2.5 million light-years away. The researchers believe that the cluster, which contains a mass of 6.2 million suns, is actually a bare nucleus: the remnants of several small galaxies clumped together. The center of this galactic mash is an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH)as the researchers say in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Anil Seth, an astrophysicist at the University of Utah and co-author of the latest research paper, said in an email to Gizmodo. “Based on previous work on simulated high-mass cores and this work, It appears that such bare galactic nuclei may in fact be the most common environment for IMBHs (for example, there may be more of them in bare galactic nuclei than in current galactic nuclei). “

Black holes are all huge, but there are many differences inbig” in the universe. The three categories of black holes—stellar mass, intermediate, and supermassive—have been described in relation to our Sun. Stellar-mass black holes are usually 10 to 100 times the mass of our Sun; Supermassive black holes can be billions of times larger, making them among the largest (and certainly the densest) things in the universe.


A bright spot indicates a concentration of stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, shown in rectangular image by Hubble.

Inventory of the suspect Nocleus B023-G078, imaged by Hubble.
picture: NASA/ESA Hubble Image, R. Pechetti & A. Seth

But medium-mass black holes – in the mass range of 100,000 to 1 million solar masses – are Inexplicably absent From the Astrophysical Register. They are so rare that intermediate-mass black holes are still referred to as candidates, as noyou were not confirmed. Average-Suspects have previously been discovered in a black hole mass using gamma rays And X raybut no candidate has yet occupied the gap in the black hole’s mass range.

Part of the problem is that we still don’t know much about how black holes evolve. IStar-mass black holes end somehow Supermassive black holes laterMedium-mass black holes may be just a short stage in that evolution.

The latest research team used new observations from the Gemini Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope to calculate the mass distribution of B023-G078, and they are I found that the object does not look like a spherical mass. It looked more like an abstract core. Then they modeled the velocities of the moving stars in the cluster and bent which – which, Without a black hole at the center of B0234-G078, the stars were moving very slowly.

“The stellar velocities that we’re getting give us direct evidence that there is some kind of dark mass in the center,” said lead study author Renuka Pichetti, an astrophysicist at Liverpool John Moores University at the University of Utah. Release. “It is very difficult for globular clusters to form large black holes. But if it is in a bare core, then there must already be a black hole, left as remnants of a smaller galaxy that fell into the larger galaxy.”

The biggest remaining uncertainty, Seth said, is that what appears to be a single medium-mass black hole could be a swarm of stellar-mass black holes, camped so close to each other that they are seen as a single object. (This was the case for NGC 6397is a stack of stars 7,800 light-years away, which was initially thought to be the missing link in the evolution of a black hole.)

Pechetti plans to a look In three other globular groups within Andromeda To see if they have any secrets to reveal. FUtility notes, including those provided In the infrared Newly launched Web Space TelescopeIt could help astrophysicists work out where the missing intermediate black holes are.

MORE: Astronomers searching for a single black hole may have found an entire band

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