NASA: Hubble determines mass of isolated black hole for the first time

This artist rendering provided by NASA shows a star being swallowed by a black hole, and...
This artist rendering provided by NASA shows a star being swallowed by a black hole, and emitting an X-ray flare, shown in red, in the process. (NASA/Chandra X-ray Observatory/M.Weiss via AP)(AP)
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 3:17 PM EDT
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(Gray News) – After about six years worth of Hubble telescope observations, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration says its astronomers have determined the mass of an isolated black hole in the Milky Way galaxy for the first time.

The space agency says there are an estimated 100 black holes roaming the galaxy, but an isolated black hole has never been conclusively identified.

All black hole masses, up until this point, have been inferred through statistics or interactions in binary systems, or in the cores of galaxies.

Black holes are also usually found with companion stars, which the agency says makes this isolated one unusual.

NASA says the wandering black hole is about 5,000 light-years away. The discovery of this black hole also allows for astronomers to estimate that the nearest isolated stellar-mass black hole to Earth could be as close as 80 light-years away.

Roaming black holes are born from huge and rare stars that are at least 20 times more massive than the sun, according to NASA.

The stars explode as supernovae, and the remnant core is crushed into a black hole by gravity.

The newly formed black hole may also be propelled through the galaxy since the self-detonation may not be perfectly symmetrical.

The agency says telescopes are unable to photograph a wayward black hole because it doesn’t emit any light. The black hole warps space, however, and deflects and amplifies starlight from anything that lines up behind it in the moment.

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