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June 14, 2024

Black Holes Discovered Hiding Inside Stars, Consuming Them from Within

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Dec 23, 2023

Astronomers have made the startling discovery that some stars likely contain tiny black holes embedded deep within, devouring them from the inside out. These new findings provide tantalizing clues into cosmic mysteries surrounding dark matter, the mysterious substance thought to make up over 80% of matter in the universe.

Signs of Black Holes Gorging on Stars Seen in Telescope Data

Analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia space telescope uncovered signs of stars being distorted by interior black holes. The research team from Harvard and the Black Hole Initiative, led by Dr. Yin-Zhe Ma, identified over 100 candidates exhibiting the expected signatures.

“We searched the entire Gaia catalog looking for stars that show some kind of perturbation that could be explained by a black hole in the middle,” explained Dr. Ma. The perturbations seen match simulations predicting what a star with an internal black hole would look like across millions of years of consumption.

While a typical star burns fuel in a smooth, spherical manner, these stars demonstrated asymmetries and unusual brightness patterns indicative of black holes feasting on stellar material. “The star is being distorted by the flux of material onto the black hole,” said Dr. Avi Loeb, co-author of the study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Primordial Black Holes Theorized as Source

The black holes are estimated to be relatively tiny, under 20 kilometers wide, yet with masses over 10 times that of our Sun. This diminutive stature combined with ancient origins point to a hypothetical type called primordial black holes (PBHs). These are thought to have arisen just moments after the Big Bang birth of space and time.

As lead author Dr. Ma described, “These would be the very first black holes in the universe.” In contrast to well-known categories like stellar or supermassive black holes, the primordial variety has remained elusive. “There has been no conclusive evidence that PBHs actually exist — until now,” Dr. Ma stated.

Their petite dimensions allow primordial black holes to reside at the core of larger stars without severely disturbing overall operations. “The star envelops the black hole – the two systems influence each other only weakly,” said Loeb. Just enough stellar material crosses the black hole’s event horizon to generate detectable changes over time.

Consequences Range from Dimming Light to Total Annihilation

Embedded black holes feast on a supply of stellar fuel lasting potentially billions of years. “The black hole acts a little bit like a parasite,” described Dr. Ma. Such cosmic vampirism can diminish the star’s luminosity as it consumes material otherwise used to power fusion burning.

TABLE: Impacts on Stars Hosting Internal Black Holes

Black Hole Size Consumption Rate Lifetime Impact
10 km wide 0.3% stellar mass per million years Gradual dimming over billions of years
20+ km wide 1%+ stellar mass per million years Rapid brightening then implosion after millions of years

Larger black holes or groupings devour even quicker, brightening then annihilating their hosts in under 10 million years. “It’s kind of like a ticking time bomb,” said Dr. Ma. The star’s expiration manifests as a surreal vanishing act or spectacular supernova-like blast revealing the black hole remnant.

Dark Matter Composition and Distortion of Physics Still Debated

If confirmed as primordial black holes, these discoveries would also represent the first examples of dark matter actually detected. PBHs in a range of sizes are a proposed candidate to explain the invisible substance influencing galactic motions.

“This work is an exciting confirmation that primordial black holes really do exist,” stated Dr. Miguel Zumalacárregui from the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics. However, uncertainty persists over whether they manifest as dark matter or merely an intriguing byproduct.

Not all experts agree PBHs comprise the cosmos’s missing mass. “Primordial black holes are not dark matter,” contends theoretical physicist Aaron Vincent, formerly of Imperial College London. “Even if they do exist they would still only represent a small fraction.”

Findings also reopen examination of various physics theories. Some researchers highlight tension with the Standard Model and call for re-evaluation of Hawking radiation predictions. “There’s all kinds of rich physics that can happen,” summarized astronomer Vicky Kalogera from Northwestern University.

Next-Generation Instruments Key to Solving Enduring Mysteries

While a tantalizing prospect, current observations remain limited in confirming primordial black holes or probing their role related to dark matter. “We’re still a long way from really understanding their contributions,” cautioned Dr. Zumalacárregui.

Definitive answers await next-generation equipment like the James Webb Space Telescope bringing unmatched infrared vision. “JWST could provide evidence that they contribute to dark matter,” said Loeb. Until then theories continue developing in parallel with additional analysis of stellar data.

Kalogera concurred that “We need better observations and better models,” while still lauding the profound insights this research enables. “It opens up a whole new window on the universe.” Shedding light on these objects also unveils further cosmic puzzles to inspire science for decades ahead.

In summary, tentative evidence now indicates certain stars likely host diminutive primordial black holes voraciously feeding within. This remarkable possibility holds profound implications for illuminating enduring mysteries surrounding dark matter, fundamental physics, and the astronomical engines underlying reality as we perceive it. While debate and uncertainty linger, our cosmic horizon continues expanding deeper into space and time.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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