Black Holes May Be Swallowing Invisible Matter That Slows the Movement of Stars – Slashdot
For the first time, scientists may have discovered indirect evidence that large amounts of invisible dark matter surround black holes. The discovery, if confirmed, could represent a major breakthrough in dark matter research. Space.com reports: Dark matter makes up around 85% of all matter in the universe, but it is almost completely invisible to astronomers. This is because, unlike the matter that comprises stars, planets and everything else around us, dark matter doesn’t interact with light and can’t be seen. Fortunately, dark matter does interact gravitationally, enabling researchers to infer the presence of dark matter by looking at its gravitational effects on ordinary matter “proxies.” In the new research, a team of scientists from The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK) used stars orbiting black holes in binary systems as these proxies.
The team watched as the orbits of two stars decayed, or slightly slowed, by about 1 millisecond per year while moving around their companion black holes, designated A0620-00 and XTE J1118+480. The team concluded that the slow-down was the result of dark matter surrounding the black holes which generated significant friction and a drag on the stars as they whipped around their high-mass partners.
Using computer simulations of the black hole systems, the team applied a widely held model in cosmology called the dark matter dynamical friction model, which predicts a specific loss of momentum on objects interacting gravitationally with dark matter. The simulations revealed that the observed rates of orbital decay matched the predictions of the friction model. The observed rate of orbital decay is around 50 times greater than the theoretical estimation of about 0.02 milliseconds of orbital decay per year for binary systems lacking dark matter. The study has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.