May 29, 2023

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Astronomers have discovered one of the supermassive black holes

The size of the black hole is more than 30 billion times that of the Sun, according to a study published this week in the British Royal Astronomical Society.

This is the first aperture to be characterized using the gravitational lensing technique. This phenomenon is caused by the presence of an object so massive, such as a galaxy or a supermassive black hole, that it distorts space-time, resulting in light emitted from a distant source passing near the object.

Although it is possible to observe galaxies, a black hole cannot be observed because it is so dense that light cannot escape from it, making it invisible.

James Nightingale, an astronomer at Britain’s Durham University and lead author of the study, told AFP that this time the astronomers were “very lucky” and were able to detect a galactic light behind the black hole, whose path appears to have been deflected. The existence of a black hole is about two billion miles away, light years from Earth.

Most galaxies have black holes at their centers. But to track its presence, it is still necessary to observe the energetic emission it produces by swallowing the nearest object or observing its effect on the orbits of the stars it orbits.

A hundred thousand lenses

However, these techniques only work with near-Earth black holes.

Gravitational lensing allows astronomers to find “black holes in 99% of galaxies that are currently unobservable” with conventional observational methods because they are so far away, says James Nightingale.

“There are 500 gravitational lenses, at least one of which has been associated with the existence of a supermassive black hole, but this landscape is about to change dramatically.”

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The European Space Agency’s Euclid Space Telescope mission, scheduled to launch in July, will usher in a “big data era” for black hole spots by creating a high-resolution map of a region of the universe, he adds.

In six years of observations, Euclid could detect up to 100,000 gravitational lenses, including several thousand black holes.

The discovery, made by James Nightingale and his colleagues, is based on computer simulations and images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

These observations confirm and explain observations made 18 years ago by Durham University astronomer Alastair Edge, who suspected a black hole at the center of the galaxy Abell 1201.