Hubble Space Telescope Detects Evidence Of An Intermediate-Mass Black Hole

Hungry black hole may be cosmic 'missing link'

Scientists discover ‘missing link’ in black hole evolution after detecting stellar HOMICIDE

Astronomers have actually located the very best proof for the criminal of a planetary homicide: a black hole of an elusive class known as "intermediate-mass", which betrayed its presence by tearing apart a wayward celebrity that passed too close.

IMBHs are believed to be a "missing link" in our understanding of how black holes evolve.

IMBHs have been particularly hard to find because they are smaller and less active than supermassive black holes; they do not have readily available sources of fuel, nor do they have a gravitational pull that is strong enough for them to be constantly drawing in stars and other cosmic material and producing the tell-tale X-ray glow.

"This is much more reliable than using X-ray luminosity alone as typically done before for previous IMBH candidates", Dacheng Lin of the University of New Hampshire and lead author of a study on the newly discovered IMBH said in a statement.

"That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate", he further said.

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The X-ray glow from the shredded star allowed astronomers to estimate the black hole's mass at 50,000 times the mass of the Sun.

The study, which reads rather like a Sherlock Holmes story, according to NASA, dates back to 2006 when two satellites, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's (the European Space Agency) X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton), came across strong X-ray flares that didn't seem to have an obvious source.

'This helps us to understand the type of star that was disrupted by the black hole'.

The researchers say finding this mid-size black hole means there could be others out there, and it raises questions as to whether they eventually grow into the supermassive size.

This object is much smaller than the supermassive black holes found at the center of galaxies which are millions if not billions of solar masses, and thus opens up the possibility of detecting far more black holes of this hitherto unseen kind. Neutron stars are the extremely dense remnants of an exploded star.

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The huge mirror of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope - its successor to Hubble - has been successfully tested for the first time, putting it one step closer to its eventual launch, which is slated for 2021.

As the names of the probes suggest, the academics were drawn to 3XMM J215022.4-055108 after spotting a burst of radiation that appeared to be the result of a star wandering too close to a black hole.

"Astronomers essentially have to catch an IMBH red-handed in the act of gobbling up a star", said NASA.
Lin and his associates brushed via the XMM-Newton information archive, browsing thousands of hundreds of observations to locate one IMBH prospect. Gravitational interactions with the larger galaxy may have ripped the dwarf galaxy apart, leaving only a small cluster of stars in its wake. Does a supermassive black hole develop from an object of intermediate-mass?

Supermassive black holes are found closer to the center of a galaxy, unlike 3XMM J215022.4-055108. Exactly how do IMBHs themselves create? Lin plans to continue this meticulous detective work, using the methods his team has proved successful.

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