Astronomers Make Amazing Discovery

( – As revealed in a study recently published, astronomers have discovered the largest stellar black hole ever spotted in the Milky Way, with a mass 33 times that of the sun.

Astronomer Pasquale Panuzzo from the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Observatoire de Paris shared that the black hole, named Gaia BH3, was unexpectedly discovered through data gathered by the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission.

Gaia, aimed at charting the Milky Way, pinpointed BH3 about 2,000 light-years away in the Aquila constellation.

With Gaia’s precise telescope, astronomers tracked stars’ orbits and measured the mass of the unseen companion, which determined it to be 33 times the mass of the Sun.

Follow-up observations from ground-based telescopes confirmed its identity as a black hole, which shadowed the stellar black holes previously known in our galaxy.

“No one was expecting to find a high-mass black hole lurking nearby, undetected so far. This is the kind of discovery you make once in your research life,” Panuzzo said in a press release.

Likewise, researchers noticed the black hole’s presence through a “wobbling” motion observed in its companion star’s orbit.

“We could see a star a little smaller than the Sun (around 75 percent of its mass) and brighter, that revolved around an invisible companion,” Panuzzo described.

Stellar black holes form from massive stars’ collapse at the end of their lives. They differ in size from supermassive black holes, whose origin remains a mystery and which have been spotted in distant galaxies through gravitational waves.

However, as Panuzzo noted, such discoveries had never been made within our galaxy.

Moreover, BH3 is considered a “dormant” black hole and resides too far from its companion star to strip it of matter. It emits no detectable X-rays, which makes its detection challenging.

Gaia’s telescope had previously identified two inactive black holes (Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2) in the Milky Way.

Over the past decade, Gaia has operated about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, producing a 3D map of over 1.8 billion stars’ positions and motions by 2022.

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