News 16 April 2024

Black hole 33 times bigger than the Sun found undetected near Earth

16 April 2024

A groundbreaking discovery in the realm of astronomy has unveiled the Milky Way’s most colossal stellar black hole yet.

Astronomers have identified a stellar black hole dubbed Gaia BH3, situated approximately 2,000 light years away from Earth, making it the second-closest black hole to our planet.

Gaia BH3 boasts a mass a staggering 33 times greater than that of the sun, shattering previous size records for black holes found within our galaxy.

The European Southern Observatory’s Gaia mission, led by scientists like Pasquale Panuzzo from the National Centre for Scientific Research at the Observatoire de Paris, made this remarkable find. Their attention was drawn to Gaia BH3 after detecting a peculiar phenomenon: a nearby star exhibiting irregular movements as it orbited the black hole.

This unexpected discovery has left researchers astounded, with Panuzzo describing it as a once-in-a-lifetime breakthrough in astronomical exploration.

The positioning of Gaia BH3 in the Aquila constellation, known as “the eagle” in Latin, provides additional intrigue. Its companion star, a metal-poor entity, offers crucial insights into the formation of such colossal black holes.

Typically, stellar black holes emerge from stars devoid of heavy elements, which collapse in on themselves instead of transforming into white dwarfs as their counterparts do.

Gaia BH3’s identification brings the count of known stellar black holes within the Milky Way to approximately 50, according to NASA.

This revelation adds to a series of recent astronomical milestones, including the detection of the universe’s oldest black hole in January. Situated within the ancient galaxy GN-z11, this black hole, spotted through the James Webb Space Telescope, dates back over 13 billion years, offering a glimpse into the universe’s distant past.

[Featured image created via MidJourney / Body image via ESO / L. Calcada]