Australian researchers have detected a black hole of about 55,000 solar masses thanks to a gravitational lens, a kind of body whose formation process has yet to be explained, according to a study published this Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Scientists know the mechanisms that lead to the appearance of small black holes from the collapse of stars, as well as those of the supermassive holes that reside in the center of galaxies, but still how the elusive intermediate mass holes are formed has not been described in detail.
The LIGO gravitational wave detector first identified such a body last September, but direct evidence of its existence remains “scant and inconclusive”, according to the scientific publication.
Astronomers are now trying to gather more observations of intermediate-mass holes to estimate how many may exist in the universe and infer what their formation process is. With this objective, a group of researchers from the University of Melbourne analyzed thousands of gamma ray bursts, the luminous explosions that occur after the collapse of a star or the collision of two of them.
Among those data, looked for signs of gravitational lensing, a phenomenon that occurs when an object of great mass gets in the way of light and deflects its trajectory, allowing the identification of bodies that would otherwise remain hidden. One of the bursts showed a distortion, caused, the researchers have concluded, by an object of tens of thousands of solar masses that they consider a good candidate to be an intermediate black hole.
“This newly discovered black hole could be an ancient relic, a primordial hole created in the early universe, before the first stars and galaxies appeared, “said Eric Thrane, one of the authors of the work, in a statement from his university. supermassives that today live in the center of galaxies, “he added.
The researcher Rachel Webster stressed for her part that “using this black hole candidate we can estimate how many of these objects are in the universe“, and detailed that it is estimated that only in the vicinity of the Milky Way there may be about 46,000.