Scientists Discover Closest Known Black Hole to Earth
Astronomers have reported the discovery of a black hole just 1,000 light years away from the earth, with a mass over four times that of the sun.
According to the study published earlier this week in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the black hole was found in a system called HR 6819, which appears through telescopes as a single bright star and is located in the constellation Telescopium.
So far, it is the closest known black hole to the earth. Even though 1,000 light years seems quite far away, scientists insist that in cosmic terms, it’s very, very close. “On the scale of the Milky Way, it’s in our backyard. Almost on our doorstep,” Thomas Rivinius, astronomer at the ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, who led the research, told The Atlantic. For reference, the most well-known black hole, which is situated within the Milky Way galaxy, is over 25,000 light years away. However, its mass is a million times that of the new black hole.
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NASA defines black holes as places in places where the gravitational pull is so high that nothing, not even light, can escape it. Because no light can get out, black holes usually can’t be seen. But this black hole is so close to the earth that even if the dark mass isn’t distinguishable in the night sky, the two stars orbiting the black hole can be seen with the naked eye on a clear night. “We were totally surprised when we realized that this is the first stellar system with a black hole that can be seen with the unaided eye,” Petr Hadrava, co-author of the study and emeritus scientist at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague, told ABC News.
Astronomers say that despite its proximity to earth, the black hole is not a threat to the human race. First, the black hole is quite small. Second, “One has to be very close to it to be sucked in,” Rivinius said.