A team of astronomers discovered a black hole lying just 1,000 light-years from Earth — and its presence may hint at the existence of many more.
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Astronomers have just found the closest black hole to us yet, a discovery which suggests there could be even more black holes lurking out there in the universe.
The astronomers were originally looking for a double star system called HR 6819 — a pair of stars close enough that it can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere without any optical aids on a dark and clear night. But while observing the stars, the astronomers realized that what they were really seeing was a three body system: The inner star was orbiting around something (hint, hint: a black hole) once every 40 days, while the outer star orbited the pair from much farther away.
So how did researchers know that the star was orbiting a black hole? And what does this discovery mean for the future of space observation and our understanding of large stars and three body systems? Find out in this Elements.
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10 Questions You Might Have About Black Holes
“While black holes are mysterious and exotic, they are also a key consequence of how gravity works: When a lot of mass gets compressed into a small enough space, the resulting object rips the very fabric of space and time, becoming what is called a singularity.”
Closest black hole to Earth found ‘hiding in plain sight’
“The astronomers studying HR 6819 weren’t looking for black holes at all. Instead, they wanted to learn more about a pair of odd stars orbiting each other.”
How Supermassive Black Holes Were Discovered
“Given that the centers of galaxies might harbor supermassive black holes, it was natural to check the center of our Milky Way galaxy for such a monster. In 1974, a very compact radio source, smaller than 1 second of arc (1/3600 of a degree) was discovered there.”
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