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A rare phenomenon: a black hole illuminates a cloud of dust

In total, scientists know of only one similar body * The black hole 'weighs' 25 times more than the Sun

Avi Blizovsky

An intermediate-mass black hole powers a nebula in the dwarf irregular galaxy Holmberg II. Image: David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center

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A scientist from the University of Leicester in the UK participated in the discovery of a dust cloud of gas illuminated precisely by a black hole. Prof. Martin Ward's discovery is only the second of its kind.
Nebulae are clouds of dust and gas that can only be seen if illuminated by stars. The new find was in a dwarf and irregular galaxy known as Holmberg-2. It is illuminated by X-rays from a larger-than-average black hole.
Prof. Ward worked on the discovery together with Philip Kaaret and Andre Zezas from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
"This is a good example of what can be achieved by combining data from different satellites." said Prof. Ward. The Chandra satellite gave us the X-ray data, and the Hubble Space Telescope added information in the visible range. By combining the pieces of information into one puzzle, we challenged the theories of black hole formation. The only other example of a nebula illuminated by a black hole is LMC X-1 in the Large Magellanic Cloud.:
However, the Holmberg 2 discovery is slightly different because the black hole in Holmberg is medium in size, weighing 25 times that of the Sun. Much more massive than small black holes located where there was one star that ended its life.

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