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What Does a Black Hole Look Like?$
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Charles D. Bailyn

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148823

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148823.001.0001

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Stellar-Mass Black Holes

Stellar-Mass Black Holes

(p.53) 4 Stellar-Mass Black Holes
What Does a Black Hole Look Like?

Charles D. Bailyn

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines stellar-mass black holes. The empirical study of black holes began in the 1960s with the discovery of quasars and the advent of X-ray astronomy. X-ray detectors could detect X-rays coming from a particular direction—as the instrument rotated, the detector scanned the sky. It was not expected that X-ray sources from outside the solar system would be detectable. However, it was quickly discovered that there were strong X-ray sources that appeared in the same position in every scan. The inferred luminosity of the sources was hundreds or thousands of times brighter than the Sun. When coincident optical stars were identified, they proved to be relatively faint. Thus, it was clear that a new class of celestial sources must exist whose radiation is predominantly in the form of X-rays, with a total luminosity comparable to or greater than that of ordinary stars.

Keywords:   stellar-mass black holes, quasars, X-ray astronomy, X-ray detectors, X-ray sources, optical stars, celestial sources, luminosity

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