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Discovery of a dark object in space – “exciting news”

Discovery of a dark object in space – “exciting news”

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Artist's impression of a binary pulsar system – The mysterious dark object in this illustration is a black hole. The bright background star is the pulsar PSR J0514-4002E. ©MPIfR; Danielle Futselaar (artsource.nl)

Researchers have discovered a mysterious object in space. Is it a lightweight black hole, a massive neutron star, or something else?

Bonn – An international research team led by Ioan Parr and Arunima Dutta (Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn) has discovered a mysterious and dark celestial body in the universe. With a mass 2.35 times more massive than our Sun, it outshines the most massive neutron stars known while being less massive than the smallest black hole known to date. The mass lies precisely in the so-called mass gap between neutron stars and black holes.

According to current theory, a neutron star cannot have a mass greater than 2.2 times the mass of the Sun. If so, it would be a black hole with gravity so strong that not even light could escape. However, black holes in the universe are known to have a mass of only about five solar masses, a mass gap in which no objects are yet known.

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So is the newly discovered mysterious object a particularly light black hole or a particularly massive neutron star? The research team has not yet been able to provide a specific answer to this question. In a guest post On the gate Conversation The team explains why this object is so fascinating: “If we want to understand the physics at the boundaries between neutron stars and black holes, we have to find objects at these boundaries.” The study in which the team first reported their discovery was In the specialized magazine Sciences published.

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The research team discovered the mysterious dark object in the spherical star cluster NGC 1851 in the southern constellation Columba (the Dove). Inside this globular cluster, the group observed a pulsar, a type of neutron star that rotates very quickly and sends radio signals out into the universe. The newly discovered pulsar, PSR J0514-4002E, rotates on its axis more than 170 times per second, each rotation producing a tick-like pulse. By measuring this “ticking,” researchers can precisely determine the pulsar’s orbital motion.

A dark object in the universe: researchers are happy with their discovery

“Imagine being able to put a nearly perfect stopwatch into the orbit of a star about 40,000 light-years away, and then measure the time of the orbits with microsecond precision,” Barr said of so-called pulsar timing. When measuring the newly discovered pulsar, the research team discovered that the celestial body revolves around an invisible body. The group was also able to determine the mass of the mysterious object.

The research team has discovered a new pulsar and a mysterious, mysterious companion object in the globular star cluster NGC 1851.
The research team has discovered a new pulsar and a mysterious companion object in the globular star cluster NGC 1851. © IMAGO/piemags

“Whatever this object is, it is exciting news,” explains co-author Paulo Freire in one of the articles notice From the Max Planck Institute. “If it is a black hole, it is the first known pulsar black hole system, the discovery of which has been the holy grail of pulsar astronomy for decades!” However, if it were a neutron star, it would have “fundamental effects” and the researcher adds: “to understand the unknown state of matter at these amazing densities.”

Artist's impression of a binary pulsar system - The mysterious dark object in this illustration is a black hole.  The bright background star is the pulsar PSR J0514-4002E.
Artist's impression of a binary pulsar system – The mysterious dark object in this illustration is a black hole. The bright background star is the pulsar PSR J0514-4002E. ©MPIfR; Danielle Futselaar (artsource.nl)

The mysterious object is located in a tight spherical mass

The research team has a preliminary theory for the formation of the dark object: the dark object and the pulsar are located in a spherical star cluster in which there is only a very small amount of space. Due to the small distances, stars there can disrupt each other's orbits and even collide. It is possible that the newly discovered object emerged from such a collision. “This is the most unusual binary pulsar discovered to date,” confirms co-author Thomas Torres (Aalborg University). “Its long and complex history pushes the limits of our imagination.”

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Whether the mysterious object is a more massive neutron star, a lighter black hole, or something else entirely, it is sure to continue to be studied in the future. “We are not done with this system yet,” asserts Arunima Dutta. “Revealing the true nature of the companion will be a turning point in our understanding of neutron stars, black holes, and whatever else might be lurking in the black hole’s mass gap.” (unpaid bill)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.