Astronomers Discover Massive Black Hole in Milky Way galaxy

Astronomers discover the most massive stellar black hole in the Milky Way, Gaia BH3, challenging our understanding of black hole formation. This exceptional find, 2nd closest to Earth, provides insights into the evolution of metal-poor stars.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Astronomers Discover Massive Black Hole in Milky Way galaxy

Astronomers Discover Massive Black Hole in Milky Way galaxy

Astronomers have discovered the most massive stellar mass black hole ever detected in the Milky Way galaxy, dubbed Gaia BH3. The black hole, located approximately 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila, has a mass 33 times that of the Sun, making it the second-closest known black hole to Earth.

The discovery was made accidentally while scientists were preparing for a bulk release of data from the European Space Agency's Gaia mission in 2025. Gaia BH3 was detected due to its effect on the orbit of its companion star, and the observations were confirmed using data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

Why this matters: The discovery of Gaia BH3 provides direct evidence that black holes can form from the collapse of metal-poor stars, which are thought to lose less mass over their lifetimes, leaving more material to produce high-mass black holes. This finding challenges our understanding of how massive stars evolve and the formation of black holes in the Milky Way.

Gaia BH3 is exceptional not only for its mass but also for its proximity to Earth. It is the second-closest known black hole, following the discovery of Gaia BH1 in 2022. The black hole is part of a binary system, with a companion star orbiting it. The composition of the companion star suggests that Gaia BH3 may have formed from the collapse of a metal-poor star, which likely lost less mass over its lifetime, resulting in a black hole 33 times more massive than the Sun.

While Gaia BH3 is a massive black hole, it is still small compared to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Sagittarius A*, which has a mass 4.2 million times that of the Sun. Stellar mass black holes like Gaia BH3 are remnants of massive stars that collapsed under their own gravity, and its significant mass suggests it originated from a metal-poor star that retained more mass over its lifetime.

Key Takeaways

  • Astronomers discovered the most massive stellar black hole in the Milky Way, Gaia BH3.
  • Gaia BH3 has a mass 33 times that of the Sun, making it the second-closest known black hole.
  • Gaia BH3's formation challenges our understanding of how massive stars evolve and form black holes.
  • Gaia BH3 is part of a binary system, suggesting it formed from a metal-poor collapsing star.
  • Astronomers plan to conduct follow-up observations to learn more about Gaia BH3's nature.