The closest black hole ever discovered is just 1,560 light-years from Earth, a new study reports. The black hole, known as Gaia BH1, is about 10 times the mass of the sun and orbits a sun-like star.
Most known black holes steal and devour gas from massive companion stars. This gas forms a disk around the black hole and glows brightly in X-rays. But hungry black holes aren’t the most common black holes in our galaxy. Far more numerous are not the quiet black holes of Chinese food that astronomers have been dreaming of finding for decades. previous claims find such a black hole Haven’t persisted so far (SN: 5/6/20; SN: 3/11/22).
So astrophysicist Kareem El-Badry and colleagues turned to newly released data from the Gaia spacecraft, which precisely mapped billions of stars (SN: 6/13/22). A star orbiting a black hole at a safe distance will not be eaten, but will be pulled back and forth by the black hole’s gravity. Astronomers can detect the motion of stars and infer the existence of black holes.
Of the hundreds of thousands of stars that appear to be being tugged by unseen objects, only one appears to be a good black hole candidate.Follow-up observations with other telescopes Support the idea of black holesthe team on November 2 at Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Gaia BH1 is the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered—the next closest black hole is about 3,200 light-years away. But it’s probably not the closest thing to existence, not even the closest we can find. Astronomers think there are about 100 million black holes in the Milky Way, but almost all of them are invisible. “They’re just isolated, so we can’t see them,” said El-Badry of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Gaia’s next data release will be in 2025, and El-Badry expects it to bring more black hole bounties. “We think there could be a lot closer,” he said. “Just finding one… shows that there are more to be found.”