In recent observations, Astronomers discover black holes that appear the closest to Earth. The team merged the data obtained from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission and other ground-based observatories across the world the discover these black holes. Scientists named these black holes Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2 because of their uniqueness.
How Astronomers Discover Black Holes that May be the Closest to Earth
After studying the data provided by ESA’s Gaia mission and several observatories stationed on Earth, a team of scientists discover black holes that appear to be closest to Earth. Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2 do not maintain the same distance from Earth. In fact, Gaia BH1 is about 1,560 lightyears away from our solar system. This implies that it is about three times closer to us than the previous black hole that holds this record.
Gaia BH2 is about 3,800 light years away from Earth, implying that it is slightly further away from us when compared with Gaia BH1. The two black holes are still within our Milky Way Galaxy, meaning they are our interstellar neighbors. But how massive are these black holes? To get the exact mass of Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2, scientists compared their mass with our Sun.
From their comparison, they realized that both black holes are approximately 10 times more massive than our Sun. Such monster size black holes should have been easily spotted from Earth. However, it took scientists a while to spot them, as they are so difficult to detect. Hence, remnants of stars or gas clouds around black holes help astronomers in spotting them across the Universe.
However, unlike most detected black holes, Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2 do not have remnants of stars or gas clouds floating within their surroundings. This implies that these newly spotted black holes are not feasting on other cosmic objects and scientists often refer to this type of black holes are dormant or inactive black holes.
How Astronomers have been spotting Dormant Black holes
Since detecting inactive black holes appears difficult to scientists, they have relied on a different method to spot this type of cosmic object. In addition, astronomers explained their new method of spotting dormant black holes in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
According to this publication, the researchers revealed that they spotted the two black holes by observing and monitoring the movement of two sun-like stars orbiting around them. Hence, these stars often display a tiny faint wobble, enabling astronomers to figure out that they are orbiting around an invisible space giant with massive gravity. The team of astronomers first spotted the two black holes in 2022.
However, recent follow-up observations have improved our knowledge about the existence of two massive black holes closer to the Solar System. Based on their statement, one could tell that the newly spotted black holes behave differently from other black holes detected in the past. Hence, they may be added to a new category of cosmic giants.
“What sets this new group of black holes apart from the ones we already knew about is their wide separation from their companion stars,” Kareem El-Badry, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the discoverer of the new black holes, explained a press statement. El-Badry also added that these inactive black holes “likely have a completely different formation history than x-ray binaries [stars orbiting black holes that emit x-ray and radio wave radiation.”
Although this discovery appears fascinating, further observations from ESA’s Gaia mission may uncover additional facts about these black holes. What do you think about this latest discovery?