According to Science Daily, a research team lead by UC Berkeley graduate student Casey Lam and astronomy associate professor Jessica Lu may have identified the first “free-floating” black hole.
The invisible object, OB110462, is estimated to be between 1.6 and 4.4 times the mass of the sun and 2,280 to 6,260 light years away, according to the outlet. For the time being, scientists believe it could be a neutron star, a “city-size” star that forms when enormous stars implode and die. Whether it’s a black hole or a neutron star, the mystery object is the first “stellar ‘ghost'” observed floating through space without an accompanying star, according to Science Daily.
A New Door to Dark Matters
“With gravitational microlensing, this is the first free-floating black hole or neutron star identified,” Lu told the newspaper. Since 2008, Lu has been looking for free-floating black holes, and OB110462 has been seen since 2020. “We can explore and weigh these lonely, small objects using microlensing.
I believe we have opened a new window into these dark objects that were previously unseen.” Though black holes are normally undetectable, researchers can use gravitational microlensing to examine how their enormous gravitational field warps and distorts light from faraway stars.
What Researchers Says?
Black holes are “one of the most unusual phenomena in astrophysics,” according to the UC Berkeley astronomy department. According to their website, the Milky Way galaxy has an estimated 100 million stellar-black holes, however Science Daily reports that the UC Berkeley team now believes there are 200 million. According to the news source, knowing how many there are will help astronomers better understand how stars die, potentially shedding more insight on our galaxy’s evolution.
For the time being, Lu’s team believes it is impossible to tell whether OB110462 is a black hole or a neutron star, but they plan to collect more data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and do more extensive investigations later.
“”We must publish all allowed solutions,” Lu told Science Daily, “as much as we would like to say it is clearly a black hole.” “This might be a neutron star or a lower mass black hole.””