Due to the obvious invisible aspects of black holes, they are undoubtedly a complex subject to study. Going under the radar, new studies indicate we have likely missed a vast number of them. The paper is set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal’s upcoming issue. In it, astronomers discuss recently discovering a star found orbiting a “quiet black hole” some 7,200 light-years from Earth. Given the tiny scope of their research which focused on such a small portion of the sky, researchers propose the theory that a large sum of quiet black holes are still yet to be discovered.
Before gravitational waves had been uncovered, the only method to study the properties of a black hole was to do so indirectly. By monitoring how they interact with other objects, we were able to gain few insights regarding radio waves emitted from typical black hole binaries. Lead researcher, Bailey Tetarenko of the University of Alberta in Canada released a statement saying, “Usually, we find black holes when they are pulling in lots of material. Before falling into the black hole this material gets very hot and emits brightly in X-rays. This one is so quiet that it’s practically a stealth black hole.”
The black hole at the center of the discussion, VLA J2130+12 is thought to be the culmination of a few solar masses featuring a companion star of substantially smaller mass. It’s estimated to be somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of our Sun. Through the combination of radio observations via the Very Large Array and X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra Observatory, astrophysicists on the project have concluded that this object must be a quiet black hole that is local.
This particular study has also determined that such objects are probably quite common, estimating upwards of tens of thousands of black holes reside right here in our very own Milky Way galaxy. As many as several million could potentially lie quietly nearby. Co-author Arash Bahramian states, “Unless we were incredibly lucky to find one source like this in a small patch of sky, there must be many more of these black hole binaries in our galaxy than we used to think.”
Though uncovering the population of local black holes will be difficult, the confirmation will increase our understanding of the forces at play during our galaxy’s infancy.
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