Scientists discovered a new type of undercover black hole that was hiding in plain view. Experts estimate there might be as many as 150 million other gravitational systems inside our galaxy.
Researchers used data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Telescope and the Karl G. Jansky radio observatory to verify the existence of a binary star system that contains a small star and a black hole.
The system was detected through a peculiar radio wave that had been intercepted decades ago by astronomers.
The First Glimpse of VLA J2130+12
The object was first named VLA J2130+12, after the observatory that discovered its existence. It was located as being close to the M15 globular cluster, and scientists have long believed that it was probably a distant galaxy.
Recent measurements made by the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network, the Green Bank Telescope and Arecibo Observatory revealed that the object was very close to our galaxy. The distance was calculated to be 7,200 light years, five times closer than the M15 cluster.
Chandra Observatory showed that VLA J2130+12 emits a low quantity of X-rays, and VLA data indicated a high frequency of radio waves.
The Undercover Black Hole
Scientists discovered that the system is a black hole larger than the mass of our Sun that slowly consumes its nearby star. As the process is very slow, VLA J2130+12 had failed to have previously been identified as a black hole.
A common black hole is more aggressive and pulls in a lot of mass at a high speed. Before entering the black hole, the space material gets very hot and emits bright X-rays, which was not the case with the new system.
The undercover black hole is the first one to be discovered outside of a globular cluster.
Hubble observations made scientists conclude that the mass of the black hole is a few times larger than the mass of our Sun, while the mass of the little star in its vicinity is just of a fifth of the Sun’s mass.
Scientists also eliminated the possibility that the system would foster an ultra-cool dwarf, a neutron star, or a white dwarf that would also be capable of pulling material from nearby objects. The bright radio waves and the small X-ray amounts made researchers exclude all other scenarios.
One of the team members that discovered the undercover black hole says that there might be millions of such systems inside our galaxy. Moreover, some of them might be very close to Earth.
Researchers plan to continue to screen the sky to discover more undercover black holes.
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