The black hole closest to Earth was is 10 times bigger than the sun – Flying Journals

The black hole closest to Earth was is 10 times bigger than the sun

An estimated 100 million stellar mass black hole in the Milky Way


Astronomers have discovered the closest known black hole to Earth using the International Gemini Observatory operated by the US National Science Foundation NOIRLab.

The existence of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way has been confirmed for the first time. Only 1,600 light-years away from Earth, it is an interesting research topic that could improve our understanding of the development of binary star systems.

The most extreme things in the universe are black holes. All massive galaxies may have supermassive versions of these unfathomably dense objects at their centers.

There are an estimated 100 million stellar-mass black holes in the Milky Way alone, and these black holes are more common, five to one hundred times the mass of the sun. Compared to dormant black holes, which do not flicker strongly in X-rays because they consume material from nearby stellar companions, only a fraction of them have been confirmed so far, and nearly all of them are “active.”

Astronomers named the closest black hole to Earth Gaia BH1 using the Gemini North telescope on the island of Hawaii, one of the Gemini Observatory’s Gemini telescopes and operated by NSF’s NOIRLab.

It is three times closer to Earth than the previous record holder, a pair of X-rays in the constellation Unicorn. About 10 times the size of the sun, this dormant black hole is located in the constellation Ophiuchus, about 1,600 light-years away. A meticulous study of the motion of the black hole partner, a sun-like star that orbits the black hole about the same distance as Earth orbits the sun, led to the new discovery.

“Take the solar system as an example, put a black hole where the sun is, put the sun where the earth is, and you have this system,” explains Kareem El-Badry, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and History The Misssonian Institution and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, and lead authors of the paper describing the discovery.

“While there were many claims to detect such a system, nearly all of these discoveries were subsequently refuted. This is the first unequivocal detection of a sun-like star in a wide orbit around a stellar-mass black hole in our galaxy.”

Despite the fact that there may be millions of black holes roaming the Milky Way, the few stellar-mass black holes that have been discovered have been revealed through their energetic interactions with companion stars. Superheated material from nearby stars spirals toward the black hole, where it produces intense jets of X-rays and matter. When a black hole is dormant (i.e. not actively feeding), it simply blends into its surroundings.

“For the past four years, I’ve been searching for dormant black holes using a variety of datasets and methods,” El-Badry said. “My previous attempts — and those of others — found a series of binary systems masquerading as black holes, but this is the first time the search has come to fruition.”

The researchers initially examined data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia spacecraft to determine whether the system had black holes. Gaia captured tiny deviations in the speed of stars caused by an unseen massive object.

El-Badry and his team studied the system in more detail using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph instrument on Gemini North. The device accurately determined the orbital period of the companion star by measuring the speed of the companion star orbiting the black hole. Thanks to follow-up observations of Gemini, the team was able to identify the central object as a black hole with a mass about 10 times that of the Sun, which is crucial for limiting the orbital speed and therefore the mass of the two components. binary system.

“Our follow-up observations of Gemini have confirmed beyond a doubt that the binary contains a normal star and at least one dormant black hole,” El-Badry elaborates. “We could not find any plausible astrophysical scenario to explain the observed orbit of the system, which at least does not involve a black hole.”

Since they only had a small window to make follow-up observations, the team relied not only on Gemini North’s excellent observational capabilities, but also on Gemini’s ability to provide data in a short period of time.

“When we first had indications that the system contained a black hole, we only had one week when the two objects were at the closest distance in their orbits. Measurements at this time are critical for making accurate mass in binary star systems. Estimates are crucial,” El-Badri said. “Gemini’s ability to provide observations in a short period of time is critical to the success of the project. If we miss that narrow window, we will have to wait another year.”

The unique configuration of the Gaia BH1 system is difficult to explain with astronomers’ current conception of the evolution of binary star systems. The star that later evolved into the newly discovered black hole was at least 20 times more massive than the Sun.

It has a very short lifespan, only a few million years. If two stars formed at the same time, the massive star would rapidly evolve into a supergiant, expanding and engulfing the second star before it had a chance to develop a proper main-sequence star that burns hydrogen like our sun.

As observations of black hole binaries have shown, it is entirely unclear how this solar-mass star survived the event and ended up as a seemingly normal star. Theoretical models that do allow for survival all predict that solar-mass stars should end up in tighter orbits than actually observed.

This could point to an important gap in our understanding of how black holes form and evolve in binary systems, and that there are unexplored populations of dormant black holes in binary systems.

“Interestingly, this system is not easily accommodated by standard binary evolutionary models,” concludes El-Badry. “It raises many questions about how this binary system came to be, and how many of these dormant black holes are there.”

(Apart from the title, this story was unedited by NDTV staff and was posted from a syndicated feed.)

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