Closest black hole to Earth is discovered just 1,000 light years away

Closest black hole to Earth is discovered just 1,000 light years away

Closest black hole to Earth is discovered just 1,000 light years away

The black hole - which has a mass the equivalent to at least four suns - is completely invisible even to the most powerful of observatories, but orbits with two companion stars that are visible to the naked eye without the aid of a telescope or binoculars.

It's not the first time that looking for stars that act weirdly has borne black hole fruit, but each such system we detect gives us more clues. In these binary systems, a black hole can steal material from its companion star, generating distinct X-ray light in the process. Astronomers were studying the double star system HR 6819 when they found the black hole hiding in it.

"On the one branch of the mobile you have two stars hanging, one of which is not visible, which is black - that is the black hole". Studying systems such as this and HR 6819 will help astronomers "understand how binaries work and how black holes form", Thompson says.

A black hole is an object which is formed from the gravitational collapse of a massive star. Majority strongly interact with their environment and they release powerful X-rays during the interaction, making their presence felt.

Scientists have discovered a black hole just 1,000 light years from Earth, the European Southern Observatory announced on May 6.

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"There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few", ESO scientist Thomas Rivinius said in a statement. "Whether the kind of system we have found can fill the gap, we don't know, it's still too early to say, but it's an important step forward". There could be other black holes lurking close to Earth that are yet to be found.

There's another paper now in preparation that will break down the nature of the stars in greater detail, but the team's analysis suggests that the black hole has a minimum mass of around 4.2 solar masses, which would put it in the ballpark of the titchiest black holes. However, this does not appear to be the case for the newly discovered black hole and its nearby star. So scientists are continually learning more about these objects and refining black holes' known properties, particularly mass, as telescopes gather more evidence.

"We realised that another system, called LB-1, may also be such a triple, though we'd need more observations to say for sure", revealed Marianne Heida, another co-author of the study. The distant outer object can gravitationally impact the inner pair in such a way that it triggers a merger and the release of gravitational waves.

The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Already in 2010, he laid the foundation to the 'Aha!' we experienced at the end of 2019 when we realized that the then newly published observations of the system LB-1 were hard to distinguish from ours of HR 6819.

The team is composed of Th. "However, that is exactly what makes this boring individual exciting because there should be many more awaiting their discovery", Dietrich Baade, Emeritus Astronomer at ESO in Garching and co-author of the study, told ZME Science. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. The team has applied for time to use ESO's optical interferometer, a device that combines the light of separate telescopes to achieve the resolution of a much larger one.

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