By now we are all aware of the magnitude and power of black holes. They are the strangest formation in the universe as they are these massive objects so dense in gravity that light itself can’t escape them. They can be formed by the collapse of stars and some theorize that they may be the answer to traveling across the universe. Black holes clearly require close examination. That has been difficult to do as although we know of their existence and have spotted them using some tools we have yet to find one that is close to Earth, until now. A new discovery has found the closest black hole to our home planet yet.
For the first time ever a black hole has been found that is only 1,000 light-years from Earth. This means that it actually part of a star system that is visible to the naked eye. That means that if you look at the right spot in the night sky you could be looking at a black hole! Sadly you will not actually be able to see the black hole because no one can see a black hole. The massive structure has such a strong gravitational pull that it not only pulls in all material near it, but it also pulls in the light! This means we can never actually look at a black hole only the effect it is having on the objects around it. This makes the discovery even more impressive.
The team at La Silla Observatory in Chile was investigating a two-star system visible from the Southern Hemisphere. They discovered that both stars were locked in orbit around something else, some large center of mass. As the team took the stars through more rigorous analysis they found the center of mass had to be a black hole. Not only that but based on the analysis the team realized that they were dealing with a structure that was formed by the collapse of a star that was four times bigger than the sun!
A structure that size that is invisible can only be one thing and that is a black hole. This means that the team successfully found the closest black hole to Earth. The closest after that is an additional 2,000 years light away. While the one discovered recently is close, it points to something even more exciting, there are likely many more like it perhaps much closer. As the black holes are invisible it makes them incredibly difficult to spot. Scientists have estimated for years that there are millions of black holes in the Milky Way, we just can’t see them. This new discovery proves it and makes others excited for the prospect of black hole hunting.
If you want to look at the black hole, or where the black hole is in the sky, it is possible. The two stars that it is beside are considered to be the fifth magnitude which means they are not very bright. In fact, they are just within the threshold of human sight. So it will be two of those stars that your eyes barely recognize in the sky, not the ones we are naturally drawn to. To find them you need to be in the southern hemisphere, looking in the constellation of Telescopium and close to the edge of a different constellation called Pevo.
The scientific benefit of this discovery is unclear at present. The closer the black holes that we discover the more that we can learn about them, that is clear. However, 1,000 light-years is still a great distance away and it may be difficult to make any real insights at the present time. Still an incredible discovery and an exciting one for the future as who knows what we will find in our sky next.