1,000 light years away, Black hole closest to Earth discovered
Astronomers say they have discovered a black hole that is closest to Earth, roughly 1,000 light years from our planet. A light year is the distance light travels in a year which is 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
Until now, the closest-known black hole was one perhaps three times further away, reports Reuters.
The black hole is at least 4.2 times the mass of the sun and is gravitationally bound to two stars in a so-called triple system, according to a study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“Just around the corner” in cosmic terms, Thomas Rivinius, the lead author of the study, was quoted as saying about the discovery by news agency Reuters. Rivinius is a Chile-based European Southern Observatory astronomer.
A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying, according to American space agency Nasa.
Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes. The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.
What makes this discovery more exciting is the fact that the black hole is so near that the two stars dancing with it can seen by the naked eye, reports Fox News.
Called HR 6819, the newly-discovered black hole is a triple system which can be seen from Earth’s southern hemisphere with the naked eye, in the constellation Telescopium.
Prior to this discovery, there have been only a few dozen stellar-mass known black holes known but there may be hundreds of millions or even a billion of them in the Milky Way, astrophysicist and study co-author Petr Hadrava of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic was quoted as saying by Reuters.