The Hubble Space Telescope, which continues to illuminate the scientific world with images sent from the depths of space, discovered a medium mass black hole (IMBH).
These intermediate-mass black holes are believed to the "missing link" in black hole evolution. So, IMBHs are hard to detect as they are smaller and relatively inactive compared to supermassive black holes.
Astronomers have witnessed a black hole tear apart a star which isn't out of the norm in the vast expanse of space. "That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate", Dacheng Lin, a research assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire and principal investigator of the new study, said in the statement.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Hubble Telescope has yet again located an obscure mid-sized black hole.
In 2006, Nasa's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton satellite spotted a powerful X-ray flare named 3XMM J215022.4-055108.
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Natalie Webb, from the Universite de Toulouse in France, Said that "Adding further X-ray observations helped us to apprehend the total energy output".
"The reason why we can use the spectral fits to estimate the IMBH mass for our object is that its spectral evolution showed that it has been in the thermal spectral state, a state commonly seen and well understood in accreting stellar-mass black holes", he added. One of the biggest questions is related to the way in which the intermediate-mass black holes form and possible similarities with supermassive black holes.
Hubble was pointed at the X-ray source to resolve its precise location and deep, high-resolution imaging confirmed that the X-rays emanated not from an isolated source in our galaxy, but instead in a distant, dense star cluster.
As the names of the probes suggest, the academics were drawn to 3XMM J215022.4-055108 after spotting a burst of radiation that appeared to be the result of a star wandering too close to a black hole. The black hole, once again active, can then emit X-rays betraying its presence. The object, called HLX-1, was spotted on the edge of a galaxy known as ESO 243-49 - and also resides in a star cluster that could have been a dwarf galaxy in the ancient past. Simply put, the a lot more enormous the galaxy, the extra substantial its black hole. Astronomers essentially have to catch an IMBH red-handed in the act of gobbling up a star.
Black holes are one of the most extreme environments humans are aware of, and so they are a testing ground for the laws of physics and our understanding of how the Universe works. Lin and his colleagues combed through the XMM-Newton data archive, searching hundreds of thousands of sources to find this one IMBH candidate. Are dense star clusters their favoured home? But seeing the object tearing a star apart makes this detection the strongest yet, according to the Dr Lin's team.