An worldwide team of scientists have detected a huge black hole with a mass 70 times larger than the Sun, which is believed to be the biggest individual stellar black hole that has been discovered in our galaxy till now.
"Astronomers have often asked how big a black hole can stars make?"
However, using China's Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), researchers have now been able to look for black holes by searching for stars that are orbiting invisible objects-black holes.
"This newly discovered black hole is a young black hole, at most a few million years old, and is in our "neighbourhood", unlike the old and remote black holes detected by LIGO". So astronomers are scratching their heads trying to figure out how the black hole - named LB-1 - got so chonky.
Stellar black holes in the Milky Way form when stars die.
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The direct sighting of LB-1 proves that this population of over-massive stellar black holes exists even in our own backyard. The star orbiting the black hole was about eight times heavier than the sun and orbited the black hole once every 79 days.
A black hole is "a place where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out", according to the definition of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
If the black hole isn't feasting and if it isn't surrounded by bright gas and dust, it becomes a little trickier to locate. "Theoretical calculations show that no matter how massive the star initially was, the mass of the final black hole can not exceed 25 solar masses if the star is rich of metals like the one discovered in this paper". "Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation", he said in a statement.
Dr Ziri Younsi from Mullard Space Science Laboratory added: "We have accomplished something many thought impossible by imaging the shadow of a black hole and it provides the strongest evidence to date that such evasive and enigmatic entities do indeed exist".
Intriguingly, it was orbiting a "dark companion": The monster black hole, dubbed LB-1.
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The discovery of LB-1 fits nicely with another breakthrough in astrophysics.
Artist impression of a black hole. Recently, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and Virgo gravitational wave detectors have begun to catch ripples in space-time caused by collisions of black holes in distant galaxies.
After the initial discovery, the world's largest optical telescopes - Spain's 10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias and the 10-m Keck I telescope in the United States - were used to determine the system's physical parameters.
Alternatively, a supermassive black hole seed could come from a giant star, about 100 times the sun's mass, that ultimately forms into a black hole after it runs out of fuel and collapses.
"This remarkable result along with the LIGO-Virgo detections of binary black hole collisions during the past four years really points towards a renaissance in our understanding of black hole astrophysics", said Reitze.
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"You could never actually see a black hole but because it is so powerful you can see when matter starts to fall into it, getting closer and closer".