European Southern Observatory (ESO) scientists came across the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered. As noted by the scientists, the new discovery is so close to Earth that its location can be spotted from the planet without using telescopes or other special equipment.
The scientists were able to detect the black hole using the 2.2-meter telescope of the La Silla Observatory in Chile. It is located in a binary star system known as HR 6819.
Discovering A New Black Hole
ESO scientists made their discovery as they were observing the system. At first, they initially thought that the system only contains two stellar objects. However, upon closer inspection, the scientists found traces of a stellar-mass black hole, which was formed following the collapse of a dying star.
According to the scientists, they were able to detect the presence of a black hole after noticing its gravitational interactions with the two stars of the system. Through follow-up observations, the scientists were able to discover that the black hole is about four times more massive than the Sun.
Closest Black Hole To Earth
HR 6819 is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth's neighbourhood. Prior to the system's discovery, the closest known black hole to Earth lies about 3,000 light-years away. This means that the black hole on HR 6819 is currently the closest known black hole to Earth. Of course, scientists only know about the black holes that were already discovered. There could be other black holes lurking close to Earth that are yet to be found.
"There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few," ESO scientist Thomas Rivinius said in a statement. "Knowing what to look for should put us in a better position to find them."
Gazing At The Black Hole's Home
The scientists noted that due to its distance from Earth, the black hole's location could be spotted without using a telescope or other equipment. However, since black holes are known to consume everything including light, HR 6819's black hole can't be spotted with the human eye.
Instead, sky gazers can observe the two stars of HR6819. These two stars can be spotted in the constellation Telescopium. They are located near the border of the Pavo constellation. They are slightly brighter than Uranus, which is the dimmest visible planet in the sky.