Astronomers have detected and measured one of the largest black holes ever discovered using a new technique that should reveal more about these regions of the universe that do not allow the emission of light due to their enormous gravitational field.
The black hole found has a mass equivalent to more than 30 million times that of the Sun, according to a study published this week in the scientific journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society”.
It is the first whose features are observed using the gravitational lens detection technique. This phenomenon is caused by the distortion of space-time by an object so massive – a galaxy or a supermassive black hole – that it is capable of warping the light of stars and galaxies. But, although a galaxy can be observed, it is not the case of a black hole, because, due to its density, not even light can escape from it, which makes it invisible.
According to the study’s author, James Nightingale, an astronomer at the University of Durham, the researchers were “very lucky”. It was possible to observe the light of a galaxy whose trajectory was deviated by about two billion light years, confirming the presence of a black hole with gigantic and invisible gravity between the galaxy and the Earth.
Most galaxies are believed to have a black hole at their center. However, until now, to detect its presence, it was necessary to observe the energy emissions produced by absorbing materials around it or to follow its influence on the trajectory of the stars that orbit it.
These observations confirm and explain the analysis made by Alastair Edge, an astronomer at the University of Durham and a colleague of Nightingale, 18 years ago, when he suspected the presence of a black hole at the center of the galaxy Abell 1201.
The European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, scheduled for July, will usher in a new era of black hole hunting by creating a high-resolution map of part of the universe. According to the scientist, over six years of observation, the mission may be able to detect up to 100,000 gravitational lenses, including potentially several thousand black holes.