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As many as 10 new black holes can be detected per year with new method

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Researchers have proposed combining microlensing and radio wave interferometry to boost the number of black holes we detect annually and thereby garner a greater understanding about these mysterious celestial bodies.

We have advanced a lot lately when it comes to our understanding of space and universe, but black holes have remained elusive because they effectively are invisible to all technologies we have at our disposal. Black holes absorb all light and matter and emit zero radiation, making them impossible to image, let alone detect against the black background of space. While that fact can’t be changed, researchers propose a new method to detect more black holes and then study them in groups to understand them in greater detail.

University of Waterloo researchers claim to have developed a new method using which as many as 10 new black holes can be detected per year and this will effectively double the number of known black holes. This increase in known number of black holes will help us study stellar mass black holes at various stages that often extend billions of years.

Avery Broderick, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, and Mansour Karami, a PhD student also from the Faculty of Science, worked with colleagues in the United States and Iran to come up with the method that has implications for the emerging field of gravitational wave astronomy and the way in which we search for black holes and other dark objects in space. It was published this week in The Astrophysical Journal.

The first direct proof of their existence was announced earlier this year by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) when it detected gravitational waves from the collision of two black holes merging into one. While we are not aware how many black holes are present in our galaxy, there is already proof that they do exist and LIGO has enabled us to look at them in a larger context.

The team proposes using radio waves to take multiple snapshots of the microlensing event in real time. Using these two technologies in combination will enable astronomers and physicists to resolve more than one image of the black hole enabling us to extract all kinds of parameters, like the object’s mass, distance and velocity. Taking a series of radio images over time and turning them into a movie of the event will allow them to extract another level of information about the black hole itself.