Star discovered in close black hole orbit

Mar 16, 2017

A research team, which included Michigan State University scientists, have discovered evidence of a star that can orbit around a black hole roughly twice an hour. Possibly the quickest orbital dance ever witnessed between a black hole and its companion star.

The team used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as NASA’s NuSTAR and the Australia Telescope Compact Array.

The black hole and its star companion were located in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae—a cluster of stars 14,800 light years away from Earth.

Radio observations made in 2015 revealed the pair likely contains a black hole pulling material from a white dwarf—a star in its dying stages.

Although the white dwarf isn’t in danger of being torn apart or sucked in by the black hole, its fate is uncertain.

“This discovery is additional evidence that, rather than being one of the worst places to look for black holes, globular clusters might be one of the best," Jay Strader, MSU astronomer, told MSU Today.

The team’s research paper was recently accepted by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.