Black holes, the cosmic bad guys that block even light from passing through, are closer than we previously believed.
Now that the stellar-mass black hole has been discovered, which is the closest one to Earth known to astronomers, it has become a focus for research on the development of these extreme phenomena.
The fact that this is the first clear finding of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way makes it much more intriguing. There are an estimated 100 million stellar-mass black holes in the Milky Way alone, which are significantly more prevalent and weigh five to one hundred times as much as the Sun.
The results have been made public in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notices.
The black hole found to be three times closer to Earth than the previous record-holder, an X-ray binary in the constellation of Monoceros, is nearly ten times as massive as the Sun and is situated around 1600 light-years distant in the constellation Ophiuchus.
A Sun-like star that circles the black hole at about the same distance as the Earth orbits the Sun was seen by astronomers using the Gemini North telescope on the island of Hawai’i, one of the twin telescopes of the International Gemini Observatory.
You may create this system by taking the Solar System, placing a black hole where the Sun is, and the Sun where the Earth is. Even though there have been several reports of such systems being detected, virtually all of these reports have now been debunked. According to senior author and astronomer Kareem El-Badry, “this is the first unequivocal observation of a Sun-like star in a broad orbit around a stellar-mass black hole in our Galaxy.
By examining data from the Gaia spacecraft of the European Space Agency, the team first determined that the system might contain a black hole. They later used the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph instrument on Gemini North to determine that the central body is a black hole that is about ten times as massive as the Sun.
The researchers precisely calculated the companion star’s orbital period by measuring its velocity as it circled the black hole. “We only had one week till the two objects were at the closest distance in their orbits when we first learned that the system had a black hole. For precise mass estimations in a binary system, measurements at this stage are crucial. The success of the initiative depended heavily on Gemini’s capacity to deliver observations on a short timetable. We would have had to wait another year if we had missed that little opening, El-Badry said.
The progenitor star that subsequently evolved into the recently discovered black hole was thought to have only had a brief lifetime of a few million years, according to astronomers.