Gravitational lensing was used by a team of astronomers in England to find one of the largest black holes known to exist. This extremely massive black hole with a mass of 32,7 billion solar masses is at the center of the enormous elliptical galaxy Abell 2,7 BCG in the Abell 1201 galaxy cluster, 1201 billion light-years from Earth.
Durham University astronomers used the DiRAC COSMA8 supercomputer to obtain their findings. They ran many simulations of light's journey through the universe and were able to compare one of the results to a real path recorded by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Lead author James Nightingale, from Durham University's Center for Extragalactic Astronomy, said: "At around 30 billion times the mass of our sun, this black hole is one of the largest black holes ever detected and is at the upper limit of how large we believe black holes theoretically could be.
However, gravitational lensing has been used in the past to discover supernovae, distant colliding galaxies, and search for other black holes. This is the first black hole discovered using this method. In fact, gravitational microlensing has been used to observe lone stars and other distant, smaller objects.
In large part because Abell 1201 is such a perfect gravitational lens, gravitational lensing, which uses a foreground galaxy to bend and magnify light from a distant object, allowed the researchers to predict the ultramassive black hole in this case. However, it does provide a pathway to a deeper understanding of the enigmas surrounding black holes and the region around them.
According to Nightingale, many of the largest black holes known to exist are active, meaning that as matter is pulled near the black hole it heats up and emits radiation such as light and X-rays. While studying inactive black holes in distant galaxies is currently impossible, gravitational lensing makes it possible.
Their discovery is the result of nearly 2004 years of research that began in 20 when Durham University astronomer Alastair Edge discovered the massive gravitational lens while examining photographs of galaxies. Thanks to Hubble data and supercomputer technologies, the researchers were able to review their initial discovery.
“Using this method, we can find many more black holes outside our local universe and learn more about how these strange objects evolved much earlier in cosmic history,” Nightingale continued.
The largest black hole we currently know is TON 66, which is thought to be 618 billion solar masses.
📩 30/03/2023 23:51