Hubble Space Telescope Helped Scientists Study A Mid-Sized Black Hole

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mid-sized black hole

Scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to prove the existence of a mid-sized black hole, also known as belonging from a class called “intermediate-mass,” as reported by NASA. This particular black hole was found because it absorbed a star that got to close to it.

In comparison with a supermassive black hole, which has millions and even billions of solar masses, a mid-sized black hole is only by 50,000 bigger than the Sun. On the other hand, it’s much more massive than a stellar black hole. At first, the scientists employed the power of a couple of X-ray telescope, then the accuracy of the renowned Hubble Space Telescope.

“Intermediate-mass black holes are very elusive objects, and so it is critical to carefully consider and rule out alternative explanations for each candidate. That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate,” explained Dacheng Lin from the University of New Hampshire, and the leading author of the new study.

The Mid-Sized Black Hole Was Found Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray, XMM-Newton

With the help from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s (the European Space Agency) X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton), the science team spotted an X-ray source, according to Dual Dove. Then, the researchers harnessed the power of the Hubble Space Telescope to identify the exact location of the source.

After measuring the precise X-ray glow, the scientists managed to calculate the mass of the mid-sized black hole. “This is much more reliable than using X-ray luminosity alone as typically done before for previous IMBH candidates. The reason why we can use the spectral fits to estimate the IMBH mass for our object is that its spectral evolution showed that it has been in the thermal spectral state, a state commonly seen and well understood in accreting stellar-mass black holes,” said Lin.

The proof that there is a mid-sized black hole in the Universe paves the road to other similar findings in space. The science team now plans to continue their work and find more black holes like this one. However, black holes remain quite a mystery, and many questions are unanswered.