Scientists discover the closest black hole to Earth

Scientists discover the closest black hole to Earth

Scientists say they’ve discovered the closest black hole to Earth.

Black holes are areas of space where gravity is so strong that nothing – not even light – can escape. They are believed to have formed from collapsed stars.

An international group of astronomers recently announced the discovery of the black hole, which is about 1,600 light-years from Earth. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year. In space, light travels back about 9.4 trillion kilometers each year.

The researchers dubbed the black hole Gaia BH1. They say it sits in the constellation Ophiuchus. A constellation is a grouping of stars. The black hole is thought to weigh about ten times the mass of our Sun. The team said it is three times closer to Earth than the previous record holder.

The newly discovered gravitational mass was identified by observing the motion of its orbiting star. The star orbits the black hole at about the same distance as Earth orbits the Sun.

Kareem El-Badry is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and at the German Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. He was the lead author of a study describing the discovery Monthly Bulletins of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The black hole was first identified by the European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft Gaia. Gaia has already discovered more than 800,000 multiple star systems. El-Badry and his team then attempted to confirm the discovery through numerous additional observations over a four-month period. This effort involved six different high-sensitivity telescopes around the world.

One of these was the 6.5-meter Magellan-Baade telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. The team also used an instrument from the Gemini North telescope, based in Hawaii.

Researchers needed such telescopes to effectively observe the orbital motion of the black hole star. The telescope in Chile and the Gemini instrument were able to provide astronomers with high-resolution images. The telescopes also collected sensitive data on ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.

El-Badry said in a statement that the Gemini observations were “confirmed beyond what is reasonable.” doubt“that the team had discovered a normal star and at least one black hole. El-Badry added that the black hole appears to be dormant, meaning it is not currently active.

When active, black holes emit high-energy light. They do not emit anything when they are not in use and are difficult to identify.

How did a black hole form in our galaxy?

The scientists said it’s unclear how the black hole formed in our Milky Way. Analysis of data collected on Gaia BH1 suggests that “its existence is difficult to explain” using traditional ones evolutionary modeling methods, said Tineke Roegiers. She is a project information specialist with the Gaia spacecraft team.

The researchers said that if the black hole had formed the traditional way – from the gravitational collapse of a star – that star would have been at least 20 times the mass of our Sun. This means that the star would only have lived for a short time, maybe just a few million years.

If both stars had formed at the same time, the scientists say, the massive star would have quickly transformed into a “supergiant‘ and swallowed the other star before it had a chance to fully develop.

Those differences, Roegiers said, “can specify Something important is missing from our current understanding of how black holes form.”

El-Badry said the mystery of Earth’s next black hole raises a lot of questions about how it formed, “as well as how many of these dormant black holes are out there.”

He added: “I’ve been looking for a system like Gaia BH1 for the past four years and tried all sorts of methods – but none of them worked. It has been exhilarated to finally see this quest bear fruit.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English based on reports from the Center for Astrophysics, The Associated Press, the European Space Agency and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

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words in this story

doubt – Not. the feeling of being sure of something

evolution – Not. the way in which living beings change and develop over millions of years

supergiant Not. an extremely large star that is 10,000 to 100,000 times brighter than the Sun

specify -v. suggest something

inspire – adj. extremely happy and excited

bear fruit – Phrase. when something is fruitful, it produces successful results

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