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Black hole with a mass 33 times that of the Sun is discovered in the Milky Way

The European Gaia space telescope, dedicated to mapping the Milky Waydiscovered a black hole with a record mass that represents 33 times that of the Sun. Something never seen in our galaxy, according to a study published this Tuesday.

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The object, named Gaia BH3 and located 2,000 light years from Earth, in the constellation of the Eagle, belongs to the family of stellar black holes that arise from the collapse of dying massive stars.

They are much smaller than the supermassive black holes located in the hearts of galaxies, whose formation process is unknown.

The discovery of Gaia BH3 was due to “random,” Pasquale Panuzzo, a researcher at the CNRS institute at the Paris Observatory-PSL, and main author of the works published in Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, told AFP.

Scientists from the Gaia consortium were analyzing the latest data from the probe, with a view to publishing the next catalog in 2025, when they found a particular binary star system.

“We saw a star a little smaller than the Sun (75% of its mass) and brighter, which revolved around an invisible companion,” which could be inferred from the disturbances it caused, says Pasquale Panuzzo, deputy head of the Gaia spectroscopic treatment.

The space telescope gives the precise position of the stars in the sky and astronomers were then able to characterize the orbits and measure the mass of the star’s invisible companion: 33 times that of the sun.

More advanced observations from ground-based telescopes confirmed that it was indeed a black hole, with a mass much greater than that of the black holes of stellar origin already known in the Milky Way, between 10 and 20 solar masses.

Such mastodons have already been detected in distant galaxies, through gravitational waves. But “never in ours,” says Dr. Panuzzo.

Sleeping black hole

Gaia BH3 is a “sleeping” black hole: it is too far from its companion star to extract matter from and therefore does not emit any X-rays, which makes its detection very difficult.

The Gaia telescope managed to find the first two inactive black holes (Gaia BH1 and Gaia BH2) in the Milky Way, but these have standard masses.

Unlike the sun, the small star of the BH3 binary system is “very poor in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium,” the Paris Observatory explained in a statement.

“According to theory, only metal-poor stars can form such a massive black hole,” says Panuzzo. The study therefore suggests that the “progenitor” of the black hole was a massive star also poor in metals.

The system’s star, 12 billion years old, “ages very slowly,” while the one that formed the black hole “has only lived 3 million years,” he adds.

“These metal-poor stars were very present at the beginning of the galaxy. Their study gives us information about their formation,” adds the scientist.

Another curiosity about the stellar couple is that the disk of the Milky Way rotates in the opposite direction to that of the other stars. “Perhaps because the black hole would have formed in another smaller galaxy that would have been devoured at the beginning of life of the Milky Way,” he adds.

The ESA (European Space Agency) Gaia probe, which has been operating 1.5 million kilometers from Earth for 10 years, provided in 2022 a three-dimensional map of the positions and movements of more than 1.8 billion stars.

Source: Elcomercio

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