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Astronomers discovered two black holes close to Earth unlike anything we’ve seen

Published Apr 5th, 2023 5:37PM EDT
ultramassive black hole in space
Image: Vadimsadovski / Adobe

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Black holes are found throughout our universe. However, astronomers have discovered two new black holes close to Earth that have raised some eyebrows. While discovering black holes near Earth isn’t unusual, these two holes are much further from their stars than expected.

This has presented some questions for astronomers because it differs from how these binary systems are usually set up. Normally, when a black hole and a star share a system, they are known as binary systems, and the black hole usually eats away at the star.

That eating of the star is what makes the black holes much easier to spot, as they give off high-energy readings. However, black holes like these found close to Earth that are further from their star are “dark,” not creating high bursts of energy because they aren’t eating away at their star.

black hole with star orbiting it is not like the black holes found close to EarthImage source: ESO

This makes them more challenging to track and, thus, harder to discover. Additionally, because they are located so far from their star, astronomers believe these black holes have very different formations than regular binary black holes.

So, the big questions become, how exactly do black holes like these newest two found close to Earth form, and how can we make detecting them easier? We’ll need to adapt our current understanding and models of how black holes form in the universe to understand that.

These latest discoveries were fueled by data captured by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia spacecraft. The spacecraft is continuing to gather additional data, and the hope is that more “dark” black holes will be discovered within that data, possibly even more black holes close to Earth.

A paper detailing the findings on these two black holes was featured in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society last month. Hopefully, as researchers look into them more, we’ll uncover how these black holes in wider systems formed and other markers that set them apart from regular binary black holes.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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