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Dwarf star found orbiting closest to black hole

Researchers have found evidence of a white dwarf star orbiting a likely black hole at a distance of only 961,000 km at an astonishing speed

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star orbiting black hole, wikimedia

New York, March 14, 2017: Researchers have found evidence of a white dwarf star orbiting a likely black hole at a distance of only 961,000 km — just about 2.5 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

In a tightest orbital dance ever witnessed for a black hole and a companion star, the star whips around the black hole at an astonishing speed — about two orbits an hour, said the study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“This white dwarf is so close to the black hole that material is being pulled away from the star and dumped onto a disk of matter around the black hole before falling in,” said study lead author Arash Bahramian, affiliated with the University of Alberta in Canada and Michigan State University in the US.

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“Luckily for this star, we don’t think it will follow this path into oblivion, but instead will stay in orbit,” Bahramian said.

Although the white dwarf does not appear to be in danger of falling in or being torn apart by the black hole, its fate is uncertain.

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The stellar system, known as X9, is located in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae, a dense cluster of stars in our galaxy about 14,800 light years away from the Earth.

“For a long time astronomers thought that black holes were rare or totally absent in globular star clusters,” study co-author Jay Strader from Michigan State University said.

“This discovery is additional evidence that, rather than being one of the worst places to look for black holes, globular clusters might be one of the best,” Strader added.

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For the study, the researchers used data from the Australia Telescope Compact Array as well as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NuSTAR telescope. (IANS)

Next Story

Chinese Researchers Spot Monster Black Hole Bigger Than Sun

Chinese team spots monster black hole which is 70 times bigger than Sun

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A team of Chinese scientists spotted a black hole that is 70 times larger than the sun. (Representational Image Only). Wikimedia Commons

A team led by Chinese researchers has spotted a monster black hole with a mass 70 times greater than Sun — toppling the earlier assumption that the mass of an individual black hole in our Galaxy is no more than 20 times that of Sun.

Our Milky Way Galaxy is estimated to contain 100 million stellar black holes — cosmic bodies formed by the collapse of massive stars and so dense even light can’t escape.

The team, headed by Professor LIU Jifeng of the National Astronomical Observatory of China of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), spotted a stellar black hole with a mass 70 times greater than the Sun.

The monster black hole is located 15 thousand light-years from Earth and has been named “LB-1” by the researchers in a paper reported in the journal Nature.

“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our Galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,” said LIU.

“We thought that very massive stars with the chemical composition typical of our Galaxy must shed most of their gas in powerful stellar winds, as they approach the end of their life. Therefore, they should not leave behind such a massive remnant,” he explained.

Spotting black hole
The monster black hole is located 15 thousand light-years from Earth. (Representational Image Only). Wikimedia Commons

Until just a few years ago, stellar black holes could only be discovered when they gobbled up gas from a companion star.

The vast majority of stellar black holes in our Galaxy are not engaged in a cosmic banquet, though, and thus don’t emit revealing X-rays.

As a result, only about two dozen Galactic stellar black holes have been well identified and measured.

To counter this limitation, LIU and collaborators surveyed the sky with China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST).

After the initial discovery, the world’s largest optical telescopes – Spain’s 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias and the 10-m Keck I telescope in the US – were used to determine the system’s physical parameters.
The results were nothing short of fantastic: a star eight times heavier than the Sun was seen orbiting a 70-solar-mass black hole, every 79 days.

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The direct sighting of LB-1 proves that this population of over-massive stellar black holes exists even in our own backyard.

“This discovery forces us to re-examine our models of how stellar-mass black holes form,” said LIGO Director Professor David Reitze from University of Florida in the US. (IANS)

One response to “Chinese Researchers Spot Monster Black Hole Bigger Than Sun”

  1. The designer of this awe-inspiring universe has many many surprises ‘up his sleeve.’ Scientists will yet discover more and more amazing revelations as they research and study our unfathomable ‘miracle’ called the universe. The ancient scriptures says: Look! These are just the fringes of his ways;Only a faint whisper has been heard of him! So who can understand his mighty thunder?”