(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have announced the first-ever discovery of a black hole wandering in space, located about 5,000 light-years from Earth. The discovered object is 7 times the mass of our Sun, and it, according to astronomers, drifts freely in outer space.
“It’s very exciting,” says paper co-author Marina Reykuba of the European Southern Observatory in Germany. “We can indeed prove that rogue black holes exist.”
This discovery may be just the beginning. Scientists believe that future research will uncover dozens or even hundreds more dark, lonely travelers.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” says Karim El-Badri of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was not involved in the work.
This discovery showed that rogue black holes may well be common in our galaxy. Determining their true number, mass, and other properties could strengthen our still incomplete theories of stellar evolution or reveal important new gaps in our understanding.
The mass of the discovered black hole is further evidence that astrophysicists’ models of formation are correct. Single black holes can “rise from the ashes” of especially large stellar progenitors.
However, it is possible that these black holes could also form in binary systems before turning into nomads in the void. In this case, it is impossible to say with certainty what happened to this hole.
What is certain, however, is that the discovery of more isolated black holes will allow researchers to explore and refine these models in more detail.
“We have never been able to study black holes that exist on their own,” Ozel says. “So, this new way of finding them and determining their mass is certainly exciting. Do they form differently? Is their mass distribution different?
Answers to such questions may appear very soon. The European Space Agency’s Gaia telescope is currently mapping the position of billions of stars in our Milky Way.
In 2025, the project scientists will publish lensing data from their observations, which is expected to provide evidence that many more drifting black holes orbit our galaxy.
“The Gaia data will be of similar or even better quality than Hubble,” says Lukasz Wyrzykowski, co-author of this latest paper on the discovery, from the University of Warsaw.
He estimates that upcoming lensing data could reveal dozens of such rogue black holes.
“We have been waiting for this discovery for many, many years,” Vyrzhikovsky says.
“It shows that this method works. Gravitational microlensing is the way to find these isolated black holes.”
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