Exciting Discovery for Our Milky Way Galaxy

ZTF J1406+1222
ZTF J1406+1222

A black hole and star pair were detected near the center of the Milky Way and at a distance of 3 light-years from Earth.
Astronomers from Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT) have recorded a black hole-star pair so close together for the first time, although 'black widow' pairs are frequently encountered in observations. "Black widow binaries" are formed when a rapidly rotating neutron star orbits a second, smaller, companion star and slowly consumes it. To date, scientists have detected about a dozen pairs of black widows in the Milky Way Galaxy.

What is a Black Widow?

The Black Widow Pulsar (PSR B1957+20) is an eclipsing binary millisecond pulsar in the Milky Way. It was discovered in 1988 and is located approximately 6.500 light-years from Earth. It orbits a brown dwarf or Super Jupiter companion with a period of 9.2 hours and an eclipse period of about 20 minutes. When discovered, it was the first known pulsar.[1] The current theoretical explanation for the system implied that the companion was destroyed by the mighty outbursts or winds of high-energy particles caused by the neutron star, hence the nickname black widow. Following this, other objects with similar properties were discovered, and the name was applied to the class of millisecond pulsars with an ablating companion.

Subsequent observations of the object showed a bow shock in H-alpha and a smaller shock seen in X-rays (as observed by the Chandra Space Telescope), indicating a forward velocity of about one million kilometers per hour.

In 2010, the mass of the neutron star was estimated to be at least 1.66 Solar Mass, and possibly as high as 2.4 Solar Mass. (the latter, if true, would pass PSR J0740+6620 for the title of the most massive neutron star ever detected, placing it within the range of the Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit).

If we go back to our article;

This binary system, called 'ZTF J1406 + 1222', is separated from its counterparts by a large difference and revolves around each other on an orbit of only 62 minutes and is 3 thousand light years from Earth. What makes the system even more interesting is that it also includes a third distant star, which orbits the duo every 10 years. Astronomers think this system likely formed in an ancient star forming cluster, orbiting each other as they drifted toward the galaxy center over time.

"It's a complex genesis scenario," said Kevin Burge, co-author of the study published in Nature and a postdoctoral fellow in the MIT Department of Physics. “This system has probably existed in the Milky Way longer than the appearance of the Sun.”
Black widow pairs are created by 'pulsars', ultra-fast spinning neutron stars formed from the collapsed cores of massive stars. Pulsars have the fastest rotation speed in the Universe and complete their rotation in a few milliseconds. This incredible speed causes high-energy gamma and X-rays to be ejected into space.

"These pairs are called 'black widow pairs', based on how the pulsars consume what feeds them in these systems, and after a spider eats its mate," says Bridge. Burge and colleagues looked at the star consumed in observations by Gaia, a space telescope operated by the European Space Agency that makes precise measurements of the positions and movements of stars in the sky.
Looking at decades of measurements collected in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the team revealed that the duo was being followed by another distant star. Then they reviewed data from the Zwicky observatory to put their theory of the duo to the test and studied the changes on the star.
“All we know for sure is that we see a star that orbits something every 62 minutes, whose brightness varies by 13 times, with a very large temperature difference between the day and night side,” says Bridge. “All the evidence we have seems to point to her being a black widow duo. But there are a few strange facts about it; so it's also likely to be something completely new,” he adds.

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