Astronomers Spot ‘Invisible Black Hole’ for First Time: Report

by Anna Dunn

Astronomers may have just spotted what’s colloquially called an “Invisible black hole” for the first time. In case you missed it, back in 2019, astronomers were able to get the first-ever picture of a black hole. But most black holes are “invisible” or impossible to detect. According to Livescience, researchers were able to detect the one in 2019 due to material glowing in its presence.

But most black holes don’t have such material. That’s why it’s incredible that astronomers have been able to spot one without it for the first time. A team of astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope. They posted their findings online. They’ve submitted their findings for publication in the Astrophysics Journal.

However, and this is a big however, their findings have yet to be peer-reviewed (checked by fellow scientists outside of the team). Hopefully, once these findings face the scrutiny of peer review, we can be more certain that they did detect an “invisible black hole.”

What Is a Black Hole?

As a refresher, black holes are what remain after the death and collapse of a star. They’re fascinating and quite difficult to study. Black holes are very dense, meaning nothing can go fast enough to escape them. They’re named after their ability to trap light. Studying black holes could tell us a ton about our universe. But they’re quite tricky still. There’s so much we still don’t know.

They can tell us a lot about the death of stars. By measuring the masses of these black holes, we can learn more about what occurred as the star started to die. The way we’ve detected a lot of black holes is the way they interact with other objects near them because they have such intensely strong gravity. However, there are some rogue black holes floating through space that have so far been elusive.

How this Team May Have Detected the ‘Invisible’

So, how did this new team do it? They combined two separate types of observations that have been made over the course of several years.

Both types of observation involved gravitational lensing. Essentially, Einstein’s theory of Relativity poses that massive objects will bend light as it travels past them. Therefore, any light passing close enough to an invisible black hole not to get swallowed up will bend in a similar way that light does when passing through a lens. That’s what Gravitational lensing is.

Astronomers have used gravitational lensing to study everything from galaxy clusters to distant stars. So the authors of this study saw a star that had light deflecting, but there was no way to tell if the light was deflecting due to a black hole or another massive object. They then took images with the Hubble for six years and measured how far the star appeared to move as the light was deflected. This helped them conclude that this is probably an invisible black hole they’re looking at.

It’s exciting news for Astronomers, who now may have found a new way to find some of our Universe’s most elusive objects.