The intriguing fact about space is that there is just so much we are yet to discover and with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope, there are so many mysteries that should be uncovered in the near future.
But recently, Astronomers have made a big leap into the discovery book by spotting a rare “wandering” black hole. This is the first time that such a discovery would be made considering the fact that black holes are often difficult to spot normally.
Black holes which are one of the biggest mysteries in the cosmos are invisible by themselves because their gravitational pull is so powerful that even light cannot escape from them. One way by which scientists are able to discover these massive space mysteries is by observing nearby objects as well as the lights around them.
Not quite long ago, there was an international collaboration that led to the Event Horizon Telescope photography of an actual black hole. As seen in the image, the actual black hole which is often in the center is just a void with a disk of hot gas and cosmos materials circling its event horizon.
In fact, there is a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way just like other galaxies across the universe. Their gravitational prowess allows them to be the orbital point for many space objects including stars.
According to scientists studying them, there might just be hundreds of millions of black holes scattered across the universe, many of which are isolated.
That said, the documented wandering space object is said to have either been a neutron star or a lone black hole that has been subjected to the inescapable power of its own gravity – something which probably turned it into a black hole in the first place.
The discovery was made by observing how the game force distorts the lights from a more distant star – a phenomenon known as gravitational microlensing.
“This is the first free-floating black hole or neutron star discovered with gravitational microlensing,” said the University of California, Berkeley, astronomy professor Jessica Lu, in a statement. “With microlensing, we’re able to probe these lonely, compact objects and weigh them. I think we have opened a new window onto these dark objects, which can’t be seen any other way.”
Lu led one of the two teams that were able to analyze the same data of the microlensing event observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and it has been accepted for an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
There was also another team from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore which calculated a slightly different mass for the object and then concluded that it is in fact a black hole that was discovered.
That paper will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
“As much as we would like to say it is definitively a black hole, we must report all allowed solutions,” Lu said that this includes both lower-mass black holes and possibly even a neutron star.
In competing estimates, the size of the object is said to be between 1.6 and 7.1 solar masses. The lower mass allows for the possibility that the object might be a neutron star while the higher end leaves the possibility of a potential black hole.
Whatever it is, the object goes by the labels MOA-2011-BLG-191 and OGLE-2011-BLG-0462 (OB110462, for short). It’s also 5,000 light-years away from Earth.
The general consensus about massive space objects that are powerful enough to bend lights around themselves are said to be black holes but the more revelations are expected to be made soon as the Hubble Space Telescope is set to make more observations and collect data on the object in the second of the year 2022.