BH3: Milky Way's biggest stellar black hole is 2000 light years way from Earth - Hindustan Times
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BH3: Milky Way's biggest stellar black hole is 2000 light years way from Earth

ByNikhita Mehta
Apr 16, 2024 11:51 PM IST

This makes the link between the stellar black holes we see in our galaxy and those gravitational wave discoveries

Astronomers have discovered a massive black hole named BH3, formed from the collapse of an exploding star, located only 2,000 light years away from Earth in the Aquila constellation.

The Milky Way's Galactic Centre and Jupiter (brightest spot at centre top) are seen from the countryside near the small town in Florida.(AFP)
The Milky Way's Galactic Centre and Jupiter (brightest spot at centre top) are seen from the countryside near the small town in Florida.(AFP)

BH3 is the largest stellar black hole found in the Milky Way, with a mass 33 times that of the Sun, making it the second nearest black hole discovered.

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The discovery of BH3 was made through the observation of a companion star orbiting the black hole. The star exhibited a distinct wobble attributed to the powerful gravitational pull of the black hole.

Data from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission and observations from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope confirmed BH3's mass and the orbit of the companion star.

Dr. Pasquale Panuzzo, an astronomer from the Observatoire de Paris and member of the Gaia collaboration, expressed astonishment at the find, remarking, “It’s a complete surprise... the most massive stellar origin black hole in our galaxy and the second nearest discovered so far.”

The mass of BH3 is comparable to black holes detected through gravitational waves in distant galaxies, establishing a link between stellar black holes in the Milky Way and previous gravitational wave discoveries.

Dr. Panuzzo emphasised this linkage, saying, “We have only seen black holes of this mass with gravitational waves in faraway galaxies.”

“This makes the link between the stellar black holes we see in our galaxy and those gravitational wave discoveries.”

Despite their vast mass and gravitational impact, stellar black holes can be challenging to detect, as many do not have companion stars orbiting around them.

However, BH3’s companion star yielded valuable insights, indicating that it remained uncontaminated by material from the stellar explosion that birthed the black hole. Suggesting that BH3 formed long before capturing its companion, adding to the intrigue surrounding its origins.

The significance of BH3's discovery prompted researchers to speed up the release of details, enabling astronomers worldwide to start with their research as soon as possible.

Dr. Panuzzo noted, “As soon as this comes out, people will rush to observe it...That will tell us about the wind that comes from stars like the one orbiting the black hole, and also about the physics of the black hole and how matter falls into it.”

 

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