A new way to spot black holes in binary star systems

They must instead be detected indirectly

Image Credits: Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes / Wikimedia Commons.

Black holes are fascinating and cosmically important objects, but because light cannot escape them, they must instead be detected indirectly, such as through their gravitational effects.

Discovering black holes this way can be challenging, but researchers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in the Canary Islands have just announced a new detection method that might allow astronomers to triple the number of known black holes with masses a few times that of the Sun.

The new technique, outlined in a paper published September 20 in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, focuses in on stellar-mass black holes (those with masses of a few to several tens of solar masses) that reside in binary systems, in which a “donor” star sends mass flowing onto the black hole.

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