When an unlucky star strayed too close to a medium-mass black hole lurking undetected in a dwarf galaxy, it revealed itself to astronomers, according to a new study published in Natural Astronomy.
The exploration made it possible to calculate the mass of the black hole. It could also help researchers understand how black holes and galaxies interact.
According to the study published in the online magazine, massive black holes (BHs) are ubiquitous in the centers of massive galaxies. In contrast, the population of BHs within dwarf galaxies is not yet known. Dwarf galaxies are thought to harbor relatively small-mass BHs, including medium-mass black holes.
“The identification of these systems has historically relied on the detection of light emitted from growing gaseous disks near the BHs. Without this light, they are difficult to detect,” the report said.
According to ScienceDaily, the star’s shredding, known as a “tidal disturbance,” or TDE, produced a burst of radiation that briefly outperformed the host dwarf’s combined stellar light and could help scientists better understand the relationships between black holes and galaxies.
“This discovery has generated a lot of excitement because we can use tidal disturbances not only to find more medium-mass black holes in silent dwarf galaxies, but also to measure their masses,” said study co-author Ryan Foley, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz who helped plan the YSE survey.
First author Charlotte Angus of the Niels Bohr Institute said the team’s findings provide a basis for future studies of medium-sized black holes.
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