For the first time, scientists have been able to detect a dormant black hole in our galaxy, just under 5,200 light-years away. The team of international researchers discovered the celestial object by observing the space around it.
According to Science Alert, there are as many as 10 million to 1 billion stellar-mass black holes in the galaxy. With how common they are, you would think we would have our tracking patterns down to a science (pun intended). But unfortunately, unless these objects manage to capture something in their pathways, they’re practically invisible. So, because we cannot interact with or study a black hole directly, we have to rely on its relation to the objects around it.
When a black hole wanders through the galaxy, scientists watch for any warps or twists of light. This will happen as stars, planets or asteroids enter its extreme gravitational field. Oddly enough, stars can even grow brighter when it passes through one’s gravitational field. When this happens, the star acts as a beacon for any observing astronomist. This phenomenon is called “gravitational microlensing,” which occurs when “an object with a gravitational field passes almost exactly in front of a distant star.” It helps scientists identify celestial objects that otherwise would be too dim to spot with a telescope.
Now, we’ve finally pinpointed a lone black hole.
“We report the first unambiguous detection and mass measurement of an isolated stellar-mass black hole,” shared a team of astronomers led by Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “We show that the lens emits no detectable light, which, along with having a mass higher than is possible for a white dwarf or neutron star, confirms its black hole nature.”
Scientists Find Black Hole the Same Year as Full Lunar Eclipse
The recent lone black hole isn’t the big event in the skies this year. Later this spring, we’ll get the chance to see a phenomenon a little closer to home. On May 16, a full lunar eclipse will for most of the world.
The lunar eclipse will be the first full one we’ve seen in the States in several years. At around 11:12 p.m Central Time, we’ll have the chance to watch the moon pass through the Earth’s shadow. At first, it’ll appear to change phases. Then, once in the center of the shadow, it will turn a blood-red hue for several minutes before continuing its path on the other side.
Not surprisingly, a lunar eclipse has the nickname, “blood moon,” and can appear just as ominous as a black hole. However, both are harmless celestial phenomenons that continue to remind us how strange life is on the third rock from the sun.