Astronomers made the announcement on Friday that they had found the black hole that is nearest to Earth, but it wasn’t exactly in time for Halloween as they had hoped. It is a giant, a husk of gaping nothingness that is ten times as large as the sun and orbits in a space that is the same distance from its own star as the distance that the Earth is from ours.
But there’s no need to be concerned: This particular black hole is located in the constellation Ophiuchus, which is 1,600 light-years distant; the next closest known black hole is located in the constellation Monoceros, which is around 3,000 light-years away. In addition to its location, the inactivity of this newly discovered black hole sets it apart from the roughly 20 others that have already been discovered in our galaxy’s Milky Way galaxy. It is not luring the nearby star to its destruction, and it is not gravitationally consuming anything else in the neighbourhood. Instead, the black hole is inactive, sitting there like a slumbering assassin, waiting for the flow of space to provide it with food.
According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, black holes are locations in space that are so dense that not even light can make its way out of them. When they feed, they may become the most luminous things in the cosmos, as gas, dust, and even smaller stars are torn apart and heated to incandescence, spewing energy as they approach the gates of eternity. This makes them the most exciting and violent occurrences in nature.
In the majority of galaxies, there is a supermassive black hole that is millions or billions of times more massive than the sun. The origin of these black holes remains a mystery to scientific researchers. Massive stars that have reached the end of their thermonuclear lifetimes and collapsed are assumed to be the source of the smaller black holes that may arise as a result. It’s likely that the Milky Way is home to millions upon millions of black holes. The X-rays that they emit while they are extracting gas from their partner stars in double-star systems are the traditional way that they make their presence known.
But what about those holes that are latent, the ones that aren’t spewing fire right now? An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics named Kareem El-Badry has been looking for hidden devils for the last four years. His analysis of the data collected by the GAIA probe, which is operated by the European Space Agency and has been monitoring the locations, movements, and other characteristics of millions of stars inside the Milky Way with fine accuracy, led him to the discovery of the black hole.
The group led by Dr. El-Badry discovered a star that was almost similar to our own sun and that was behaving in an odd manner, as if it were subject to the gravitational effect of an unseen partner. The researchers decided to continue their investigation, so they took over the Gemini North telescope, which is located on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. This telescope was able to measure the speed and period of this wobble, and as a result, they were able to determine the relative masses of the objects that were involved. The method is similar to the procedure that astronomers use to examine the wobbles of stars in order to discover the existence of exoplanets circling around them; the only difference is that this time the target was far more substantial.
Their findings and the calculations that followed were compatible with the idea that a black hole with ten times the mass of the sun was being encircled by a star quite similar to our own. They gave it the name Gaia BH1
It is likely that a star of roughly 20 solar masses served as the progenitor of this particular black hole. The dominant hypotheses postulate that the death of the star and the subsequent development of the black hole would have required a supernova explosion as well as other events that would have seriously affected the operation of the second star in the system, which was far smaller. So why does the other star seem to have such a typical appearance?