Scientists have discovered a black hole that is not only the smallest ever, but also the closest to Earth.
The black hole is located in the Milky Way galaxy – 1,500 light years from here, in a constellation called Monoceros – in Greek for a “one-horned rhino.” As a nod to the black hole’s unique compact size as well as the constellation’s name, scientists named it ‘Unicorn“.
And although black holes are quite common in the universe, as are their discoveries, what makes this one unique is that it has been so close to us, and yet managed to go unnoticed. Apparently, scientists never paid much attention to it because they didn’t think a black hole could be so small – black holes typically have a solar mass (a unit of measurement) of 5 and more – which means they are at least five times the size. mass of the sun. the Unicorn, on the other hand, represents only 3 solar masses, or three times the mass of the sun.
“When we looked at the data, this black hole – the Unicorn – has just been released ”, Tharindu Jayasinghe, who is pursuing his doctorate. from the Department of Astronomy at Ohio State University in the United States, and led the study, reporters told reporters.
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In the past, scientists had noticed that a giant red star in the sky was being pulled by something – as if it was “dancing with an invisible partner,” science journalist Jonathan O’Callaghan wrote in Quanta Magazine. However, no one except Jayasingle has stopped to think that this invisible partner could indeed be a black hole.
Soon to be published in the Monthly notices from the Royal Astronomical Society, the study focused on this “invisible partner” armed with the Jayasighe hypothesis, and analyzed data from a wide range of telescopes and satellites. Based on the speed of the red star, its orbital period, and the gravitational pull it appeared to be feeling, the researchers concluded that it could be a black hole and determined its curious mass. solar.
“Just as the moon’s gravity warps Earth’s oceans, causing the seas to swell towards and away from the moon, producing high tides, the black hole warps the star into a football-like shape with an axis longer than the other, ”Todd Thompson, professor of astronomy at Ohio State University, co-author of the study, said in a statement.
“The simplest explanation is that it’s a black hole,” he added, “and in this case, the simpler explanation is more likely.