Astronomers discover the closest black hole to Earth

NoirLab astronomers detect the closest black hole to Earth, which is 1,600 light-years away.

The discovery has been achieved thanks to the Gemini North adaptive optics system, located in Hawaii, and it is the first detection of a stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way, whose proximity offers a unique study objective to advance the understanding of the evolution of binary systems, reported this Friday in a release NoirLab, which operates the telescope.

Called by astronomers BH1, this dormant black hole weighs about 10 times the mass of the Sun and is located in the constellation Ophiuchus. It is just 1,600 light-years away, three times closer to our planet than the previous record holder, an X-ray binary located in the constellation Monoceros.

The discovery was made possible after precise observations of the motion of the black hole’s companion, a Sun-like star that orbits the Sun at roughly the same distance as Earth from the Sun.

Black holes are the most extreme objects in the universe. Supermassive versions of these unimaginably dense astronomical objects may lie at the center of the largest galaxies. However, stellar-mass black holes, weighing about five to 100 times the mass of the Sun, are much more common in the universe, with their number estimated to be around 100 million in the Milky Way alone.

However, only a few have been confirmed to date, almost all of which are active, meaning they glow brightly in X-rays as they consume material from a nearby stellar companion, unlike dormant black holes which do not. , like the newly discovered.

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