A black hole, 33 times the mass of the Sun, found hiding in Milky Way Galaxy - Hindustan Times
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A black hole, 33 times the mass of the Sun, found hiding in Milky Way Galaxy

Apr 16, 2024 07:15 PM IST

In a first, ESA’s Gaia mission researchers have discovered a huge black hole that is of stellar origin, hiding in plain sight in our very own Milky Way Galaxy.

In a first, ESA’s Gaia mission researchers have discovered a huge black hole that is of stellar origin, hiding in plain sight in our very own Milky Way Galaxy. This sleeping giant was found in the constellation Aquila and that is just under 2000 light-years away from Earth. The intriguing part is that galaxies of such nature have not been found in the Milky Way before. They were mostly seen in galaxies that are much farther away.

ESA Gaia mission has found a black hole that defies explanation.(Representational Photo)
ESA Gaia mission has found a black hole that defies explanation.(Representational Photo)

And the first thing that such a galaxy does, is raise the question about the way that massive stars evolve.

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Most stellar-mass black holes eat up matter from some hapless nearby star companion. However, when a black hole does not have a companion close enough to steal matter from, it does not have such material at its disposal and it becomes even more tougher to spot and gets termed as a ‘dormant’ black hole.

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What caught researchers’ eye was that an old giant star in the constellation Aquila, at a distance of 1926 light-years from Earth, was wobbling and the reason behind that was a big surprise. The star was actually locked in with a dormant black hole that was huge - about 33 times the size of our Sun.

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It was dubbed as ‘Gaia BH3’. Notably, most stellar-origin black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy are around 10 times the mass of our Sun. The biggest of these was Cygnus constellation (Cyg X-1), which was estimated to be around 20 times the mass of the Sun.

And now that Gaia BH3 has been found, it has become the most direct evidence that black holes in this mass range actually exist.

However, the discovery of this black hole has to be explained. What makes it exist? Astronomers’ current understanding of how massive stars evolve and die does not immediately explain the reason behind the existence of this one. In fact, a black hole 30 times the mass of our Sun is tough to explain away.

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Current theories of black holes

Research shows that aging massive stars give off a huge part of their material and then they lose a large part of themselves when they explode as supernovas, leaving their core. After that, depending on the mass left behind they turn into a neutron star or a black hole.

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