A gravitational lens allows to discover one of the largest black holes in the universe

A gravitational lens allows to discover one of the largest black holes in the universe

Taking advantage of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, astronomers have discovered one of the most massive black holes found to date.

Gravitational lensing occurs, for example, when a foreground galaxy bends light from a more distant object and stretches it. By dealing with distortion, it is possible to take advantage of magnification. In this way, astronomical objects are sighted that could not be captured in any other way.

The international team of James Nightingale, from Durham University in the UK, used gravitational lensing and supercomputer simulations to make inferences about how light is bent by a black hole inside a galaxy hundreds of millions of miles away. light-years from Earth.

The analysis made it possible to determine that it is an ultramassive black hole, an object of more than 30,000 million times the mass of our Sun, located in the galaxy seen in the foreground. That mass is huge, even for a black hole. It is unusual to find such massive black holes.

It is the first black hole found using the technique used in this study. In simulations, the journey of light through the universe is executed hundreds of thousands of times. Each simulation includes a black hole of a different mass, which changes the path of light to Earth.

When the researchers included an ultramassive black hole, more than 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, in one of their simulations, the path the light followed from the distant galaxy to reach Earth matched that observed in real images captured. by the Hubble Space Telescope.

This black hole is at the upper limit of how big black holes can theoretically get.

Artist’s impression of a black hole in which its intense gravitational field distorts the space around it. This warps the backlight images, lined up almost directly behind it, into distinct circular rings. This gravitational “lensing” effect offers an observational method for inferring the presence of black holes and measuring their mass, based on the magnitude of light bending. (Image: ESA / Hubble / Digitized Sky Survey / Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org) / N. Bartmann)

The discovery raises the exciting possibility that astronomers may find many more ultramassive, quiescent black holes than previously thought, and investigate how they grew so large. Inactive black holes are called those that are not absorbing large amounts of matter, an absorption that generates effects in its environment that reveal the presence of the hole.

Nightingale and his colleagues report the technical details of their finding in the academic journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, under the title “Abell 1201: detection of an ultramassive black hole in a strong gravitational lens.” (Fountain: NCYT de Amazings)


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