Monday, May 20, 2024

New Cosmic Giant Unveiled: Milky Way’s Largest Stellar Black Hole Found, Weighing 33 Solar Masses

In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers have identified the largest stellar black hole within our Milky Way galaxy, situated a mere 2,000 light years away in the Aquila constellation. Known as BH3, this black hole exerts a significant gravitational pull on its neighboring star, causing noticeable orbital disturbances.

In an unexpected revelation during routine observations, scientists pinpointed BH3 after detecting unusual ‘wobbling’ behaviors in a star located in the Aquila constellation, also known as the Eagle. This stellar black hole, the most massive of its kind found in our galaxy to date, emerged from the remnants of a supernova.

Dr. Pasquale Panuzzo, a leading astronomer with the Gaia collaboration at the Observatoire de Paris, expressed his astonishment at the discovery. “BH3 not only signifies the heftiest stellar-origin black hole in our galaxy but also ranks as the second closest to Earth,” he remarked.

Stellar black holes typically originate from the gravitational collapse of massive stars and have been identified in various sizes across the Milky Way. While most stellar black holes approximate ten times the mass of the sun, BH3 stands out with a mass 33 times greater.

The data revealing BH3’s existence came from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which aims to create a three-dimensional stellar map. Gaia’s latest findings highlighted a star exhibiting orbital movements suggestive of a massive gravitational influence nearby, confirmed later by observations from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

This stellar orbit around BH3 completes every 11.6 years, highlighting the unique characteristics of this black hole compared to Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s center, which formed through different cosmic processes.

Dr. Panuzzo added, “Previously, black holes of this magnitude were only observed indirectly through gravitational waves from distant galaxies. The discovery of BH3 offers a direct link to such distant cosmic phenomena and enhances our understanding of black hole formation.”

Scheduled for a future update in late 2025, the Gaia mission’s findings underscore the rarity of such massive black holes, which, despite their enormity, often remain elusive due to the lack of orbiting stars that can reveal their presence.

As the astronomy community anticipates further data, Dr. Panuzzo anticipates that new observations could provide insights into the cosmic winds and matter dynamics surrounding black holes, enriching our knowledge of these mysterious celestial objects. The study has been detailed in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, encouraging immediate further investigation by the global scientific community.

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