Closest black hole to Earth turned out to be a cosmic “vampire”

(ORDO NEWS) — Recent observations of this star system have revealed intriguing details about a phenomenon known as stellar vampirism.

In 2020, a team of astronomers announced the discovery of the closest black hole to Earth. However, a new study has shown that the cosmic phenomenon was misidentified.

A team from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has reported the discovery of a black hole just 1,000 light-years from Earth in the HR 6819 system.

An international team of astronomers based in KU Leuven (Belgium) disputed this discovery and showed that HR 6819 does not actually have a black hole, instead it is a “vampire” two-star system at a rare stage in its evolution.

Astronomers have taken a close look at what happens when a “vampire” star sucks out the outer layers of material from a companion star.

The initial study in 2020 was led by Tomas Rivinius, an ESO Chilean astronomer, who welcomed the scrutiny and said: “It’s not only normal, but it should be that the results were carefully checked.”

The team led by Rivinius was confident that HR 6819 was a triple system, with one star orbiting the black hole once every 40 days and a second star in a much wider orbit.

However, Julia Bodensteiner suggested that HR 6819 could also be a two-star system, and no black hole is present. Abigail Frost, a researcher at KU Leuven and lead author of the new study, says they were forced to turn to a different observational strategy.

The two teams worked together to make new observations of the system and collect fresh data that confirmed that the two companion stars were not accompanied by a black hole at all, but exist as a binary system.

Binary systems are widespread in space, but the uniqueness of this system is that it contained such a rare phenomenon as stellar vampirism.


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