Friday, August 12

Black Hole Hunters: become a black hole hunter | Digital Trends Spanish

The black holes they are some of the most amazing objects in the universe. They are so dense that anything that passes through their event horizon, even light, cannot escape. That’s where they get their name, since the black hole itself is impossible to see. Fortunately for researchers, many black holes have material like dust and gas around them, and when this material falls into a black hole it can emit bursts of X-rays that allow them to locate the black hole.

But this is not the case for all black holes. Some are not taking material, which means that they do not emit x-rays and are much more difficult to locate. Now, a citizen science project is inviting members of the public to help search for these “hidden” black holes.

This simulation of a supermassive black hole shows how it distorts the starry background and captures light, producing black hole silhouettes.NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; background, ESA/Gaia/DPAC

The project, called Black Hole Hunters, look for clues about the location of black holes left behind by their enormous gravity. Because black holes are so dense, they have very strong gravity, and this strong gravity warps space-time. This bends the light coming from stars behind them, making that light brighter for a short time.

Citizen scientists are encouraged to look for these star brightness spikes in the chart data. A short tutorial explains what you’re looking for in a graph, then you’re off to help classify graphs that might indicate the presence of a black hole. The data is compiled from 10 years of measurements from the SuperWASP survey, an exoplanet detection project.

The project could help astronomers identify important black holes for future study, according to Adam McMaster, one of the co-leads: “I can’t wait to see what we find with the Black Hole Hunters project. The black holes we are looking for should definitely exist, but none have been found yet. Our search should give us the first clues about how many black holes are quietly orbiting stars, which will eventually help us understand how such systems form,” he said in a release.

“Finding them is a huge task and it’s not something we can do alone, so it’s great that anyone with internet access can get involved no matter how much they know about astronomy.”

You can join the hunt by heading to the Black Hole Hunters project page.

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