British researchers have discovered one of the largest black holes known to date. A new technology made this possible.
Researchers in the UK have discovered one of the largest black holes known, thanks to a new technique that could allow the location of thousands more black holes. The black hole that has just been discovered has a mass 30 billion times that of our sun, according to a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
A phenomenon called “gravitational lensing” was used for the first time to locate this black hole, which is around two billion light-years from Earth. Light reaching us from distant galaxies indicates the existence of a black hole when it amplifies and curves inward.
This process can be compared to that of a “beam of light shining through the bottom of a glass,” Durham University astronomer and lead author James Nightingale told AFP.
New process allows foresight
Black holes have such strong gravity that even light cannot escape them. So since they’re just black, until now they could only be observed by showing large amounts of light at their edges or by measuring the orbits of stars accelerating as they fly past a black hole. However, these techniques only work for relatively close galaxies.
The new gravitational lensing technique will allow the detection of black holes “in the remaining 99 percent of galaxies that are currently inaccessible,” Nightingale said. As a result, our image of the universe is expected to “change dramatically”.
For their now published discovery, Nightingale and his colleagues used images from the Hubble Space Telescope and computer simulations. They also ruled out other possibilities, such as an overconcentration of dark matter.