Hubble telescope gives evidence of modest-size black hole in space

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Hubble telescope gives evidence of modest-size black hole in space
Hubble telescope gives evidence of modest-size black hole in space

New Delhi : The Hubble telescope has given significant evidence for a black hole of an elusive class known as "intermediate-mass". The black holes in the space are known for their destructive behaviour on stars which come close to them.

Scientists believe that they have now received the strongest evidence to confirm the existence of mid-size black holes in the outer space.

Till date, scientists knew about only two types of black holes - "stellar" black holes, with masses about 10 times our Sun, and "supermassive" black holes located at the centres of galaxies, with masses ranging from millions to billions of times our Sun.

But now, the researchers have evidence to claim that mid-size black holes also exist.

These so-called IMBHs are a long-sought "missing link" in black hole evolution. Weighing in at about 50,000 times the mass of our Sun, the black hole is smaller than the supermassive black holes that lie at the cores of large galaxies but larger than stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of a massive star, the researchers said.

"Intermediate-mass black holes are very elusive objects, and so it is critical to carefully consider and rule out alternative explanations for each candidate. That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate," said Dacheng Lin of the University of New Hampshire, principal investigator of the study.

Lin and his team studied the results produced via Hubble Telescope at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton).

In 2006, the researchers captured a powerful flare of X-rays, but they were not able to claim if the rays had originated from inside or outside of our galaxy.

Researchers attributed it to a star being torn apart after coming too close to a gravitationally powerful compact object, like a black hole.

The X-ray source, named 3XMM J215022.4-055108, was not located in a galaxy's centre, where massive black holes normally would reside.

The study, which has been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, raised hopes that an IMBH was the culprit, the researchers said.

The Hubble telescope was then pointed towards source of X Rays and it created a high-resolution image to provide evidence that the X-rays emanated not from an isolated source in our galaxy, but instead in a distant, dense star cluster on the outskirts of another galaxy -- just the type of place astronomers expected to find an IMBH.