The concept of a black hole is quite terrifying to most. An object out there in the galaxy so massive that its gravity prevents even light from escaping, let alone anything else that may cross its path.
Now, a team of astronomers have proven that there is a black hole out there even bigger than the one previously discovered, and for the first time, they’ve used a light-bending effect called ‘gravitational lensing’ to achieve this monumental finding.
Shedding Light On Black Holes
The team of astronomers, led by Durham University, UK, discovered the black hole using gravitational lensing and published their findings in the ‘Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society’.
Gravitational lensing is a phenomenon in which the gravity of a massive object, such as a galaxy, bends the path of light from a more distant object behind it.
The team of astronomers were able to simulate light traveling through the Universe hundreds of thousands of times, with each simulation including a different mass black hole, changing the journey of the light to Earth.
Gravitational lensing then creates a magnified and distorted image of the background object, allowing astronomers to study it closer.
In other words, the gravitational field of a closer galaxy bends the light of a farther-away galaxy, magnifying the galaxy in the background. This is what led the team to discover one of the largest black holes known to date.
An Astounding Discovery
The researchers were floored by the discovery of one of their simulated paths of light matching that of real images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, verifying the gigantic, dubbed ‘ultramassive’, black hole’s existence.
To put into perspective just how gigantic this uncovered black hole is, it is around 30 billion times the mass of our own Sun.
“This particular black hole, which is roughly 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, is one of the biggest ever detected and on the upper limit of how large we believe black holes can theoretically become, so it is an extremely exciting discovery,” explains physicist James Nightingale of Durham University in the UK.
That’s a fact that is bound to excite astronomers and space enthusiasts worldwide, whilst simultaneously terrifying those with a fear of the unknown of outer space.
This discovery opens up new opportunities for studying black holes and faraway galaxies and the team is looking forward to continuing their research of faraway galaxies using the same technique.
“[G]ravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, something not currently possible in distant galaxies,” Nightingale says.
“This approach could let us detect many more black holes beyond our local Universe and reveal how these exotic objects evolved further back in cosmic time.”
This appears to be just the start of super smart scientists using technology to aid them in making landmark discoveries. As technology advances and more distant objects are discovered, we are sure to uncover even more mysteries of the universe.
What do you think of this discovery? Will you be on the lookout for more space discoveries or does the thought of what could be out there scare you?