Black holes found within 13 billion-year-old star cluster

Advanced computer simulations have been created to allow scientists to discover the location of hundreds of black holes in distant galaxies.

The technology allowed researchers at the University of Surrey to get a closer look at a ‘globular cluster’ a spherical collection of stars to deduce the presence of the black holes.

They found that the 13 billion-year-old cluster, known as NGC 6101, is younger than the stars making it up, which suggests the existence of the holes.

Researchers say it is an insight they have never been able to see before.

"Due to their nature, black holes are impossible to see with a telescope, because no photons can escape,” said Miklos Peuten, author of the study.

"In order to find them, we look for their gravitational effect on their surroundings. Using observations and simulations we are able to spot the distinctive clues to their whereabouts and therefore effectively 'see' the un-seeable."

Black holes are a few times larger than the Sun and form in the gravitational collapse of massive stars at the end of their lives.

It was previously thought that these black holes would almost all be expelled from their parent cluster during the death of a star. The study of NGC 6101, which involved recreating its every star and black hole to see how it evolved, is calling this theory into question.

Professor Mark Gieles said: "Our work is intended to help answer fundamental questions related to dynamics of stars and black holes and the recently observed gravitational waves.

"These are emitted when two black holes merge and, if our interpretation is right, the cores of some globular clusters may be where black hole mergers take place."

Peuten added: "The results show that globular clusters like NGC 6101, which were always considered boring, are in fact the most interesting ones, possibly each harbouring hundreds of black holes.

"This will help us to find more black holes in other globular clusters in the universe."

Earlier this year, Japan abandoned its Hitomi satellite which was designed to study supermassive black holes and other space phenomena, because its solar array paddles were thought to have broken off. 

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