First ever midsize black hole spotted in globular star cluster 47 Tucanae

NASA celebrates #BlackHoleFriday by releasing breathtaking images

Astronomers examining the pulsars in a densely populated star clusters have found something very astonishing. Researchers have spotted first of its kind black hole lurking in the star cluster. Black holes are the most mysterious entities present in a galaxy that has boggled minds of every researcher as laws of physics fail in the black hole.

As per the observations made till date, scientists have divided black holes into two categories — stellar weight black holes that are just ten times the mass of Sun and super massive black holes that are millions or billions of times the mass of Sun and scientists have not seen any anomaly or deviation from this division.

However, for the first time astronomers have discovered an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) with mass 2200 times the Sun. The black hole is located in the center of the globular star cluster named 47 Tucanae located in the southern constellation of Tucana the Toucan some 16,700 light-years from Earth.

“Intermediate-mass black holes have been expected [in globular clusters] for many decades,” said Lead study author Bülent Kiziltan, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “But we’ve not been able to find one conclusively.”

Kiziltan explained that astronomers confirm the presence of black holes as they emit X-rays in large amount while feeding the nearby gas and dust. A black hole is only visible when it eats nearby stuff and emits X-ray. However, central region of 47 Tucanae is empty which is why researchers failed to spot the black hole in the past.

Another way to confirm the presence of the black hole is watching the speed of nearby star as it moves faster when it is near to a black hole. This possibility was also negated by the fact that 47 Tucanae is densely populated star cluster and it is not possible for the scientists to track speed of every star.

Kiziltan along with his team was studying two dozen pulsars present in the ancient star cluster and used computer simulations to find the black hole. Later, it was confirmed that it is a middle weight black hole which will solve the missing interlink between a stellar mass black hole and a super massive black hole.

Scientists say that presence of dozens of pulsars have enabled them to discover IMBH and many such black holes might by lurking in different galaxies which they need to find but not every star cluster or galaxy has the right combination of distance and bright pulsars.

The study appeared in the journal Nature.

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