Stellar Black Hole Is So Massive It Shouldn't Exist
Editor's Note: The findings of this study have been called into question because of a potential error in the analysis of starlight from the companion star. That error would mean the black hole is about the size of our sun, rather than 70 times the mass of our sun.
A gigantic stellar black hole 15,000 light-years from Earth is twice as massive as what researchers thought was possible in our own galaxy.
The black hole is 70 times more massive than the sun, the scientists wrote in a new study. Previously, scientists thought the mass of a stellar black hole, formed from the gravitational collapse of massive stars, couldn't exceed 30 times that of the sun.
"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," lead study author Jifeng Liu, deputy director-general of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' National Astronomical Observatories, said in a statement. "Therefore, they should not leave behind such a massive remnant."
Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind
It is thought that our Milky Way galaxy contains some 100 million stellar black holes, yet scientists have discovered only about two dozen of them, according to the statement. That's because, until a couple of years ago, the only way scientists could discover these giant beasts was by detecting the X-rays they emitted while they chomped away at their stellar companions. But most black holes in our galaxy don't have much of an appetite and thus don't release X-rays, the researchers explained in the statement.
So Liu and his team turned to another method: They scanned the skies with China's Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope. Using this telescope, they searched for stars that orbit seemingly invisible objects, held on tight by the object's gravity. That's how the researchers came across one star 15,000 light-years away that was dancing around nothing — but was held in an orbit by something that could only be a black hole, they wrote.
After finding the star, which they named LB-1, the researchers used two huge optical telescopes — the Gran Telescopio Canarias in La Palma, Spain, and the Keck I telescope in Hawaii — to determine the mass of the star and its black hole companion. They found that the star was eight times more massive than the sun and orbited a black hole 70 times more massive than the sun. The star orbited the black hole every 79 days, the researchers reported.
The black hole "is twice as massive as what we thought possible," Liu said in the statement. "Now, theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation." Recently, astronomers have been challenged by discoveries that point to the existence of black holes that are more massive than experts thought was possible. For example, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors have spotted ripples in space-time caused by the collision of black holes in distant galaxies, and these black holes are more massive than expected, according to the statement.
"This discovery forces us to re-examine our models of how stellar-mass black holes form," LIGO director and University of Florida professor David Reitze, who was not involved in the study, said in the statement. "This remarkable result, along with the LIGO-Virgo detections of binary black hole collisions during the past four years, really points towards a renaissance in our understanding of black hole astrophysics."
The findings were published Nov. 27 in the journal Nature.
- The 12 Strangest Objects in the Universe
- 15 Amazing Images of Stars
- The 18 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics
Originally published on Live Science.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
By Ben Turner
By Robert Lea
It is baffling to read a title like this ... so massive it shouldn't exist. Based on what criteria? Humans are just scratching the surface of what is out there. We are limited in our understanding and massive data available there. Unless those who made this discovery or the writer are the creator of what is in existence, then they can theorised what should and shouldn't be...
The more common stellar black holes - up to 20 times more massive than the Sun - form when the centre of a very big star collapses in on itself.
Who are we to say that something (if it is) really there should not be there. Just because it doesn't agree with our puny (and in this case, apparently wrong) ideas? More likely we are wrong - as apparently turns out to be the case - not the Universe
More anthropomorphic self aggrandisement!
Rather consider that dark matter is what engenders the force of gravity for ordinary matter to bond, then the accretion and accumulation of ordinary matter is just the resultant consequence of this force. In which case it can be interpreted, that dark matter is responsible for density of ordinary matter in a whole matter perspective. Such is it that gravitational lensing is representative of this relationship as well. Where one assumes the relative density of ordinary matter as an influence in the gravitational distortion of the spacetime fabric, it is really the dark matter envelopment of the ordinary matter that is in play here. The visibility and complexion of ordinary matter is just a result of this whole matter interaction.
Still if we are to agree with the expectation of dark matter to meet the expectation of its contribution in the scheme of the total mass-energy density in the universe, then one must consider that there is an excess of dark matter outside of the whole matter conglomeration. So for dark matter to meet the expectation of its contribution in the scheme of the total mass-energy density in the universe. So where the universe's total energy is broken down to as 68% dark energy, 27% mass-energy via dark matter, and 5% mass-energy via ordinary matter, the percentage of energy distribution suggests a differing evolutionary purpose for dark matter. As suggested of these hypothetical particles, dark matter is theorized to account for the missing gravitational energy required to keep galaxies from flying apart. If dark matter is to truly account for 85% of the missing matter required to account for the missing gravitational energy, then dark matter must pervade every space between ordinary matter. Like the hypothetical graviton, dark matter density mirrors that of ordinary matter density; in effect, negative mass density and positive mass density. And even though ordinary matter (positive mass density) reveals its coherency in particle form upon detection, dark matter (negative mass density) does not.
In which case it would then follow that dark matter can be accumulated, separate of ordinary matter. It would therefore also follow that the gravitational force is more representative of negative density mass than positive density mass. Therefore it would not be a great leap of imagination to view the notion of black holes as made up only of dark matter. Example: Upon this hypothesis then, one can expect that there is a require transition to separate ordinary matter from its complementary dark matter. It starts first with the disintegration of matter, as a whole, as it interacts with the event horizon of the black hole. As the positive density mass is 'squeezed' upon its own gravitational acceleration toward the black hole, liken to the spaghettification effect, its matter changes to allow for its disintegration via transmutation and the massive release of photons due to alpha decay and beta decay. This is the effect wherein positive density mass is collected within the event horizon, into a plasma, increasing its photon density. This 'squeezing' effect is like extracting out the dark matter from the whole matter, allowing for the ordinary matter to be reduced to its smallest constituent components. The dark matter is then absorbed into the black hole, and the remnants of ordinary matter are discarded and radiated out at high velocity back into the cosmos; to start, once again, to reintegrated into the universe via bonding and evolving.
The problem with the expectation that black holes must be a certain size has its foundation in the expectation of it being a positive density mass gravitational singularity, in accordance with the Schwartzchild radius calculations. However if we apply the understanding of a black hole as being a negative density mass gravitational well, the size is of no consequence because dark matter is expected to be more energy dense than ordinary matter.
Indeed while there continue to be discoveries, or evidence thereof, of extraordinarily large black holes or considered larger than normal galaxies as seen from billions of years ago, or even unto what we have concluded as our limit as proposed of the expected Big Bang, scientist do not still have a definitive perspective of what that means for cosmogony. The Big Bang is more representative of our theory for an inflationary universe, than it is for how our universe began; its reverse engineering.
That is not to say the existing presentation of collective theories is not safely ensconced in the scientific method. We just shouldn't limit ourselves when opening up new paths of thought. While we let the math guide us, we should still be open to greater possibilities within the unobservable universe.