The closest black hole to Earth

Who detected it? A group of astronomers operating the Gemini North telescope. They observed the closest black hole to Earth, only 1600 light-years away. It is the first detection of a stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way. The telescope that made the discovery is located in the Hawaiian Islands. It has been named Gaia BH1.

The closest black hole to Earth is 1600 light years away.
The closest black hole to Earth is 1600 light-years away.

Heavier than the Sun

According to the observatory, it is an inactive black hole weighing 10 times the mass of the Sun. It is located in the constellation Ophiuchus. It is still unknown how it was formed in its beginnings. It is a binary system of stars. One of them became a supergiant until it ended up as a black hole. A research question is why its companion star survived this event.

Hypotheses are being considered. The solar-mass star should be in a much tighter orbit than is actually observed. The discovery of refutes some theories, according to astronomers. There are “gaps” in the formation of black holes in binary star systems.

How was the discovery of the closest black hole to Earth made? It was made possible by precise observations of the motion of the companion star in that region of space. This is a star similar to the Sun. And it orbits the object at a distance similar to that of the Earth with respect to the Sun.

It would have ten times the weight of the Sun.
It would have ten times the weight of the Sun.

Scientific certainty

“The original star then became this black hole. And it should have been at least 20 times more massive than our Sun. This means it would have lived only a few million years,” they report.

There are many detections of systems like this. But almost all of these discoveries have subsequently been disproved. In contrast, this is the first unequivocal detection. It is a solar-type star. It orbits around a stellar-mass black hole in our galaxy.” Kareem El-Badry, an astrophysicist at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics, explained. He is also the lead author of the scientific paper describing the discovery.

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