December 11, 2023

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The elusive type of black hole has a habit of snacking on stars

(CNN) Black holes are notorious for snacking on stars, but some of this celestial waste may be messier than others, according to new research.

used astrophysicists 3D computer models To prove that intermediate-mass black holes take a few bites of errant stars before spewing stellar crumbs away and leaving a cosmic trail.

The researchers made the discovery while running simulations of black holes of different masses and sending sun-sized stars into the past. The clues uncovered in the experiment may help astronomers find intermediate-mass black holes by looking for evidence of their behaviour.

During the simulation, an intermediate mass black hole The star is torn apart in its orbit, and every time the star makes another roll, the black hole takes another bite out of it. When only the dense, distorted core of the star was left, the black hole dumped it and sent it flying across the galaxy.

A study describing the modeling analysis has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, and the results will be presented Tuesday at the American Physical Society meeting in April.

“It is clear that we cannot observe black holes directly because they do not emit light,” said lead study author Fulya Kyroglu, a doctoral student in astrophysics. at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in Evanston, Illinois, in a statement. She is also a member of the university’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics.

So instead, we have to look at the interactions between black holes and their environments. We found that stars undergo multiple passes before they are ejected. After each pass, they lose more mass, causing a taste of light as (is) ripped apart. Each glow is brighter than the last, creating a signature that may help astronomers find it.”

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Searching for elusive black holes

Astrophysicists are still trying to prove that intermediate-mass black holes exist in the first place. The elusive orbs, which are estimated to have between three and 10 times the mass of our sun, form when supernovae collapse.

The mass of the intermediate-mass black hole is thought to lie between them that who A supermassive black hole and a low-mass black hole. A supermassive black hole is at the center of most large galaxies The mass of our sun can be millions to billions of times.

“Their existence is still being debated,” Kyroglu said. “Astrophysicists have discovered evidence of its existence, but this evidence can often be explained by other mechanisms. For example, what appears to be an intermediate-mass black hole may actually be an accretion of stellar-mass black holes.”

During the 3D modeling experiment, the stars were able to complete up to five orbits around an intermediate-mass black hole before being blasted away. With each pass, the star loses more mass while slowly tearing apart. The remnants were ejected at an astonishing speed into the galaxy – enough to create a bright light pattern that astronomers can monitor as they seek to prove the existence of invisible intermediate-mass black holes.

“It’s amazing that the star hasn’t been completely torn apart,” Kyroglu said. “Some stars may be lucky and survive the event. The velocity of ejection is so high that these stars can be identified as hypervelocity stars, which are observed in the centers of galaxies.”