The smallest black hole discovered so far

Nasa scientists believe they have come close to minimum size with 14 km coarse black hole XTE J1650-500

Nasa scientists have found the smallest black hole so far. It is located in the constellation Altar (Ara) and was discovered in 2001 with the RXTE satellite. However, it is only now that the masses have been measured with a new technique.

The black hole XTE J1650-500. Image: Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics

The black hole, named XTE J1650-500 after its coordinates, is at least close to the minimum size predicted by theory, according to scientists Nikolai Shaposhnikov and Lev Titarchuk. The black hole has a mass only 3.8 times as large as the sun and a diameter of only 14 kilometers.

"This black hole is really close to the limits", Says Nikolai Shaposhnikov of the Goddard Space Flight Center, who presented the research results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Los Angeles. "For many years, astronomers have wanted to know the smallest possible coarseness of a black hole, and this small type is a rough step toward answering the question."

The black hole XTE J1650-500 is circled by a star as in this illustration. Image: NASA/CXC/A. Hobar

Shaposhnikov and Titarchuk calculated the mass of XTE J1650-500 from the ratio of black holes to the inner part of the accretion disk surrounding them. On this, the attracted matter gathers and is then swallowed up as if in a fountain of water. Jets of natural gas are blown off near the black hole, creating powerful rontene radiation (energy and light flashes from the frontier world). The strength of the Rongen radiation varies, as the scientists say, in a pattern that repeats itself in an almost regular interval and that is called quasi-periodic oscillations (QPO).

According to the research results of the two Nasa scientists, the QPO frequencies depend on the coarseness of the black hole. They have been able to confirm their calculations on three black holes where the mass was measured by other methods. In XTE J1650-500, they arrived at a mass of 3.8 suns with half a sun of uncertainty. Small black holes exert a stronger gravitational pull than coarser ones.

A dying star turns into a black hole only above a certain coarseness. If it has too little mass, it turns into a neutron star. The exact limit is not known, but it is amed that it could lie somewhere between 1.7 and 2.7 solar masses.

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