A Black Hole is discovered, close to home. How close is it really?


News: Scientists have discovered a new black hole but this time it is the closest known black hole to Earth. This new find is about 1,000 light-years from our solar system.

Is that close? Well, lets see. A light-year is defined as the distance light travels in one Earth year which is about 6 trillion miles (9 trillion km). So technically a black hole that sits 1,000 light-years away may not seem very close but astronomers who work with distance on a larger scale say it is just around the corner.

Quick Recap: 

A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so hard that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been packed into a tiny space. Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes based on their interaction with surrounding objects in space.

How did they find this black hole?

Scientists from the European Southern Observatory using a huge telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile found this black hole by accident. They were studying two stars in a system called HR 6819. They observed that some object was causing the stars to move in mysterious ways. As per their calculations this object had to be four times heavier than the Sun. Still, they couldn’t see anything.

Thomas Rivinius led the study from Chile and explained, “An invisible object with a mass at least four times that of the Sun can only be a black hole.” The calculations confirmed that there had to be a small black hole by the two stars.

Why is this black hole unique? People in the Southern Hemisphere can for the first time see the two star system with the newly discovered black hole with their naked eye!

The study also explains that this black hole was formed when a star about 10 times as massive as the Sun exploded and caused a giant explosion called a supernova. This probably happened 65 million years ago around the time dinosaurs became extinct. But now this black hole is about 15 miles (24 km) across and its moving around one of the two nearby stars.

Most black holes that have been discovered have some activity around it. Their strong gravitational pull starts to draw in nearby stars leaving a luminous glow and bunch of gas and dust scattered around them. But this black hole appears to be truly black and super quiet so far.

What next? Scientists will keep studying this black hole — and looking for others. They believe there are many, many more black holes like this in our own Milky Way Galaxy.

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