This illustration depicts a cosmic homicide in action.
Black holes are one of the most extreme environments humans are aware of, and so they are a testing ground for the laws of physics and our understanding of how the Universe works. Flares of X-ray light from the super-heated gas disk alerted astronomers to the black hole's location; otherwise it lurked unknown in the dark.
Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) are a long-sought "missing link" in the black hole evolution. In other words, it is a black hole of intermediate-mass.
While comparing the observations of the new study to older instances of potential IBMH candidates Dacheng Lin explained, "The main difference is that our object is tearing a star apart, providing strong evidence that it is a massive black hole".
This discovery used view from the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA Chandra X-ray observatory and the European Space Agency X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission observatory. In 2006 these satellites detected a powerful flare of X-rays, but they could not determine whether it originated from inside or outside of our galaxy.
Astronomers were therefore left to wait for the rare moment one might tear apart a star that came too close.
As the names of the probes suggest, the academics were drawn to 3XMM J215022.4-055108 after spotting a burst of radiation that appeared to be the result of a star wandering too close to a black hole. The researchers have ruled out the possibility that their discovery is just a cooling neutron star.
Hubble was pointed at the source of the X-ray to investigate. Based on the X-ray glow of the chewed-up star, however, astronomers calculated that the black hole's mass was 50,000 solar masses, which is far more massive than a neutron star (typically about the size of a small city).
Previous Hubble research has shown that the more massive the galaxy, the more massive its black hole. Does a supermassive black hole develop from an object of intermediate-mass?
Supermassive black holes are so enormous they always have a ready supply of fuel, pulling in stars and other cosmic material which produces the so-called X-ray glow pretty much constantly. There have been a few other IMBHs found till date.
A group of planetary experts and astronomers discovered the stellar object.
"This helps us to understand the type of star that was disrupted by the black hole".
There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon.
This isn't the first candidate for a mid-sized black hole. Lots of questions stay to be answered.
These include whether a supermassive black hole can grow from an IMBH or how IMBHs themselves form. Are dense star clusters their favored home?
What we learn today from NASA is that the Hubble telescope has managed to unearth one of these particularly elusive objects. In a statement to Parabolic Arc, Webb's optical telescope element manager, Lee Feinberg, said, "Deploying both wings of the telescope while part of the fully assembled observatory is another significant milestone showing Webb will deploy properly in space". NASA's newest telescope, James Webb Space Telescope (Webb), was deployed on the recently conducted test. STScI is run for NASA by the Association of Colleges for Research Study in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.