Newly discovered space object could be a

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Jan. 28, 2024, 2:52 p.m. ET

Astronomers have discovered a mysterious unknown object in our galaxy that could be a breakthrough in the study of black holes.

The “extremely dense remnant of a collapsed star” lies about 235,000 trillion miles away from Earth in a globular cluster of stars in the Milky Way, officials said.

The space object was found to be in orbit with the newly discovered PSR J0514-4002E pulsar, which rotates 170 times per second, according to radio light transmitted to Earth and documented by the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa.

The announcement was made by a group of international researchers from the collaboration Transients and Pulsars with MeerKAT on Jan. 18.

The newly found object is heavier than all known neutron stars but is lighter than the smallest black holes, leading researchers to believe it could be an example of a never-before-discovered radio pulsar – black hole binary.

Milky Way rising over St Aidan’s Church at Thockrington, Northumberland, captured by photographer Tony Nellis, 24, January 14 2024. Tony Nellis / SWNS

The mysterious object and its orbiting rapidly spinning millisecond pulsar were discovered by the highly sensitive MeerKAT Radio Telescope in South Africa. SARAO

The nature of objects in the “black hole mass gap” has not been studied extensively, leading researchers to hope that the discovery will lead to scientific breakthroughs.

“Either possibility for the nature of the companion is exciting. A pulsar–black hole system will be an important target for testing theories of gravity and a heavy neutron star will provide new insights in nuclear physics at very high densities,” said University of Manchester Professor of Astrophysics Ben Stappers, who lead research on the project in the UK.

This graphic shows the “solar masses” of detected objects in the stellar graveyard – the area in the population of objects that were once stars devoid of objects between 2.5 and 5 solar masses. LIGO-Virgo / Frank Elavsky & Aaron Geller

The discovery was made in a dense collection of old stars known as NGC 1851, where the celestial bodies are “much more tightly packed” than the rest of the galaxy, leading to orbit disruptions and collisions, according to researchers.

“We’re not done with this system yet,” said leading researcher Arunima Dutta of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

“Uncovering the true nature of the companion will be a turning point in our understanding of neutron stars, black holes, and whatever else might be lurking in the black hole mass gap.”

The space object was found to be in orbit with the newly discovered PSR J0514-4002E pulsar, which rotates 170 times per second, according to radio light transmitted to Earth and documented by the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. Springernature.com

When dense neutron star remains collide with another star and collapse it is believed they form a black hole, an inescapably dense gravitational field.

The heaviest neutron star — or collapsed core of a massive supergiant star — ever discovered is 2.2 times the weight of our Sun and the lightest black hole is about five solar masses — with the discovery’s weight sitting in between.

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