When stars massive enough to outshine our Sun die, they explode in a supernova, and the remaining core is crushed by its own gravity to form a black hole.
Sometimes an explosion can set a black hole in motion, flying across the galaxy like a pinball. By right, there should be many rogue black holes known to scientists, but they are practically invisible in space and therefore very difficult to detect.
Astronomers believe there are 100 million free-floating black holes roaming our galaxy. Researchers now believe they have discovered such an object. The discovery was made after six years of observations, and astronomers were even able to accurately measure the mass of the extreme space object.
The black hole lies 5,000 light-years away and is located in the spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy called Sagittarius Carinae. This observation allowed the research team to estimate that the closest isolated black hole to Earth could be as little as 80 light-years away.
But if black holes are virtually indistinguishable from the void of space, how did Hubble spot this one?
The extremely strong gravitational field of black holes distorts the space around them, creating conditions that can deflect and amplify starlight heading for them. This phenomenon is known as gravitational lensing. Ground-based telescopes look at the millions of stars that dot the center of the Milky Way and look for this ephemeral glow, which means that a large object has passed between us and the star.
Hubble is ready to continue these observations. Two different groups of researchers studied the observations to determine the object’s mass. Both studies have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.
“Whatever it is, this object is the first discovered remnant of a dark star wandering the galaxy unaccompanied by another star,” Lam said in a statement.
The black hole passed in front of a background star located 19,000 light-years from Earth towards the center of the galaxy, amplifying its starlight for 270 days. Astronomers have had a hard time figuring out their sizes because there is another bright star very close to the one they observed in the black hole.
“It’s like trying to measure the tiny movement of a firefly next to a bright light bulb,” Sahu said in a statement. “We had to carefully subtract the light from the nearest bright star to accurately measure the deflection of the faint source.”
Sahu’s team believes the object could travel at 99,419 miles per hour (160,000 kilometers per hour), faster than most stars in this part of the galaxy, while Lou and Lam’s team came up with an estimate of 67,108 miles. per hour (67,108 miles per hour). 108,000 kilometers per hour).
Additional Hubble data and observations, as well as further analysis, may resolve the dispute over the object’s identity. Astronomers continue to search for such invisible oddities, like a needle in a haystack, that could help them better understand how stars develop and die.
“With microlensing, we can examine these lone compact objects and weigh them. I think we’ve opened a new window into these dark objects that can’t be seen in any other way,” Lu said.