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Tech & Science Astronomers may have discovered a new class of tiny black holes

04:46  04 november  2019
04:46  04 november  2019 Source:   cnet.com

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Have astronomers found a new class of tiny black hole ? Jackson Ryan/CNET. Now an entirely new detection method, pioneered by researchers at Ohio State University, suggests there may be a whole population of black holes we've been missing.

Black holes are an important part of how astrophysicists make sense of the universe—so important that scientists have been trying to build a census of In a study published today in the journal Science, astronomers offer a new way to search for black holes , and show that it is possible there is a class

Have astronomers found a new class of tiny black hole? Jackson Ryan/CNET © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Have astronomers found a new class of tiny black hole? Jackson Ryan/CNET

Black holes are the cosmic champions of hide-and-seek. Einstein predicted they existed in 1916, but it took over 100 years before a telescope as wide as the world snapped the first picture of a black hole. They're elusive beasts, avoiding detection because they swallow up light. Even so, astronomers can see the tell-tale signs of black holes in the universe by studying different forms of radiation, like X-rays. So far, that's worked -- and a huge number of black holes have been discovered by looking for these signs.

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The mini black hole : Scientists discover a whole new class of black holes smaller than any known before in the universe. Black holes are often found in so-called binary systems, where two stars once orbited around each other, until one ran out of fuel and exploded.

The discovery shows there may be an entire class of black holes astronomers did not know existed. In a study published today in the journal Science, astronomers offer a new way to search for black holes , and show that it is possible there is a class of black holes smaller than the smallest

a star in the background: This computer simulation shows two black holes circling each other and was created after the first direct observation of gravitational waves. © CNET

This computer simulation shows two black holes circling each other and was created after the first direct observation of gravitational waves.

However, an entirely new detection method, pioneered by researchers at The Ohio State University, suggests there may be a whole population of black holes we've been missing.

The findings, published in the journal Science on Nov. 1, detail the discovery of a black hole orbiting the giant star 2MASS J05215658+4359220 (J05215658, for short) using data from Earth-based telescopes and Gaia satellite observations. The team shows J05215658 is being orbited by a massive unseen companion -- and they suspect it might be an entirely new class of black holes.

"We're showing this hint that there is another population out there that we have yet to really probe in the search for black holes," said Todd Thompson, astronomer at The Ohio State University and lead author on the study, in a statement.

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Supermassive black holes may be the result of hundreds or thousands of tiny black holes that merge Instead, astronomers must rely on detecting the radiation black holes emit as dust and gas are Rapidly expanding space may have squeezed some regions into tiny , dense black holes less

A black hole is a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it.

Generally, a binary system like this -- where a black hole orbits a star -- is easy to detect, because the black hole's enormous gravity pulls material from the star in, lighting up the black hole with radiation. Astronomers can detect that from Earth. But if the black hole is too small, it might not be interacting with the star in this way and remains invisible. That's the case with J05215658.

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The team suggest the new black hole is likely 3.3 times more massive than the sun, which would make it the lowest mass black hole yet discovered. However, there's potential the black hole could be up to six times as massive as the sun because there's a little bit of wiggle room built into the calculations. That would bring it in line with previous black hole discoveries.

Another possibility is the mysterious object might be a very large neutron star. When stars die, they have two options for the cosmic afterlife based on their mass: Big stars collapse into a black hole and little stars become a dead, neutron star. Neutron stars are small and incredibly dense and are believed to reach around 2.5 times as massive as the sun before collapsing into a black hole themselves.

To solve the mystery, astronomers will need to discover similar-sized objects lurking in the cosmos and identify what exactly they are. As astronomers get better at cosmic hide-and-seek, finding more black holes of differing sizes, the mysteries of black hole formation and evolution will begin to be unraveled.

What is a black hole? The universe's dark, mysterious monsters

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