Black Hole Hunters: Astronomers Want Help to Spot Hidden Black Holes

Black holes are some of the most mind-bending things in the universe. They are so dense that anything that passes their event horizon, even light, can’t get out. That’s how they got their name since the black hole itself can’t be seen. Researchers are lucky that many black holes have things like dust and gas around them. When these items fall into a black hole, they emit X-rays that help locate them.

But this isn’t true for every black hole. Some aren’t eating, so they don’t give off X-rays and are much harder to find. Now, a citizen science project is asking people to help search for these “hidden” black holes.

“Black Hole Hunters” searches for signs of black hole gravity. Because black holes are so dense, they have very strong gravity. This strong gravity bends spacetime. This bends light from stars behind them, making that light brighter for a short time.

Citizen scientists are asked to look for these peaks in the brightness of stars in graph data. A short tutorial shows you what to look for in a graph, and then you are free to help sort graphs that might show the presence of a black hole. The data comes from 10 years of measurements from the SuperWASP survey, which is a project to find other planets.

Adam McMaster, one of the co-leads, says the project could help astronomers find important black holes to study in the future: “I can’t wait to see what we find in the Black Hole Hunters project. The black holes we’re looking for should definitely exist, but no one has found one yet. “Our search should give us the first hints about how many black holes are quietly orbiting stars, which will eventually help us figure out how these kinds of systems form,” he said in a statement.

“Finding them is a big job that we couldn’t do alone, so it’s great that anyone with Internet access can help, no matter how much they know about astronomy.”

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