Scientists have discovered what may be the smallest-known black hole in the Milky Way galaxy and the closest to our solar system.
- The researchers have nicknamed it Unicorn.
- They said that the black hole is roughly three times the mass of our sun, testing the lower limits of size for these extraordinarily dense objects that possess gravitational pulls so strong not even light can escape.
- A luminous star called a red giant orbits with the black hole in a so-called binary star system named V723 Mon.
- The black hole is located about 1,500 light years – the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) – from Earth. While it may be the closest one to us, it is still far away. By way of comparison, the closest star to our solar system, Proxima Centauri, is 4 light years away.
- Black holes like this one form when massive stars die and their cores collapse.
- The study is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- The astronomers have named it Unicorn because V723 Mon is in the Monoceros constellation, which translates to unicorn, and partly because it is a very unique system” in terms of the black hole’s mass and relative closeness to Earth.
What is a black hole?
A black hole is a place in space where gravity is so strong that nothing—no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it. The theory of general relativity predicts that a sufficiently compact mass can deform spacetime to form a black hole.
There are three categories of black holes.
- The smallest, like ‘the Unicorn,’ are so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the gravitational collapse of a single star.
- There are gargantuan ‘supermassive’ black holes like the one at our galaxy’s center, 26,000 light-years from Earth, which is four million times the sun’s mass.
- A few intermediate-mass black holes also have been found with masses somewhere in between.
Source: WION, Reuters