Massive Black Hole Discovered ‘Extremely Close’ To Earth

Astronomers using the International Gemini Observatory, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, have discovered the closest-known black hole to Earth. This is the first unambiguous detection of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way. Its close proximity to Earth, a mere 1600 light-years away, offers an intriguing target of study to advance our understanding of the evolution of binary systems. /

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
Font Size:

Research published Tuesday revealed the discovery of a massive stellar-mass black hole within our galaxy, meaning it’s “extremely close” to Earth.

Astronomers named the newly discovered black hole Gaia BH3, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The beast is 33 times bigger than our sun and is located in the constellation Aquila, which means it’s the second-closest black hole to Earth.

“No one was expecting to find a high-mass black hole lurking nearby, undetected so far,” France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), astronomer Pasquale Panuzzo said in a statement. “This is the kind of discovery you make once in your research life.”

Black holes are thought to be created during the collapse of enormous stars, according to Live Science. There are two different types theorized by mankind: The stellar-mass and the supermassive black hole. The former is within a few times the size of our sun’s mass. Supermassive black holes are the stuff of nightmares and can be up to 50 billion times the size of the sun.

And no one really knows what happens once you get inside one of the behemoth cosmic monsters. (RELATED: Scientists Discover Black Hole Inside Quasar That ‘Eats Just Over A Sun Per Day’)

Gaia BH3 was uncovered after scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) assessed the positions and movements of the 2 billionish stars within our Milky Way. One of these stars seemed to have a pretty significant wobble, which researchers concluded must be an invisible companion black hole. Observations were confirmed by the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Understanding our cosmos is one of the most complex aspects of the human condition. We are born on a rock in the middle of a void, made up of what scientists call “dark matter.” But they, nor we, know what dark matter really is. We just know that we don’t know what most of space is made of. And I think that’s actually really cool.