It's just 1,000 light years away.
Illustration of Black Hole
Credit: L. Calcada / ESO via AP

In a galaxy not so far away, European astronomers discovered the existence of a black hole that's closer to Earth than has ever been seen before—it's roughly 1,000 light years away from our planet, and experts found it hiding in a double-star system known as HR 6819. Scientists say the black hole revealed itself in the curious orbit of the star near the center of the system. The two stars, which are in the southern constellation of Telescopium, can actually be seen by the naked eye.

"There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few. Knowing what to look for should put us in a better position to find them," explained Thomas Rivinius, a Chile-based ESO scientist who led the study.

Scientists say that the black hole is not nearly close enough for the average observer on Earth to feel its effects. However, during winter in the southern hemisphere, the two stars that compose its solar system can be seen without a telescope. The invisible black hole is estimated to be about four times the mass of the sun and roughly 2,500 light-years closer to us than the next black hole. By comparison, Sagittarius A*, the well-known, supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, is more than 25,000 light years away, and the first ever black hole to be captured on camera is 55 million light-years away, according to CBS News.

"By finding and studying them, we can learn a lot about the formation and evolution of those rare stars that begin their lives with more than about eight times the mass of the Sun and end them in a supernova explosion that leaves behind a black hole," says Marianne Heida, a co-author on the paper, which was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


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