Black holes are the space champions of hide and seek. Einstein predicted that they existed in 1
However, an entirely new method of detection, created by researchers at Ohio State University, suggests there may be an entire population of black holes we have missed.
The findings, published in the journal Science on November 1, detail the discovery of a black hole in the orbit of giant star 2MASS J05215658 + 4359220 (J05215658, for short) use of data from Earth telescopes and
"We show this hint that there is another population out there that still doesn't have to really probe in the search for black holes," said Tod Thompson, an astronomer at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
In general, a binary system like this – where a black hole orbits a star – is easy to detect because the huge gravity of the black hole pulls material from the star, illuminating the black hole with radiation. Astronomers can detect this from Earth, but if the black hole is too small , it may not interact and with the star that way, it would remain invisible. This is the case with J05215658.
The team suggests that the new black hole is probably 3.3 times as massive as the sun, which would make it the lowest mass of the black hole, however, there is the potential that the black hole could be up to six times as massive as the sun, since there is a small curly room built into the calculations, which would align it with previous black hole findings.
Another possibility is that the mysterious object is a very large neutron star. When the stars die, they have two possibilities for the cosmic afterlife based on their mass: Big stars collapse into a black hole, and small stars become a dead, neutron star. The neutron stars are small and incredibly dense and are thought to reach about 2.5 times as massive as the sun before collapsing into a black hole by themselves.
To solve the mystery, astronomers will have to find objects of similar size floating in space and identify exactly what they are . As astronomers get better in space hiding places, finding more black holes of different sizes, the mysteries of the formation and evolution of black holes will begin to unravel.