Astronomers have discovered a new, very massive black hole in the Milky Way. As the European Southern Observatory ESO announced on Tuesday in Garching, it has around 33 times the mass of the Sun and, at a distance of “only” 2,000 light-years, is extremely close to the Earth by cosmic standards.

The object in the constellation Aquila, named “Gaia BH3”, is the most massive black hole known to date in our home galaxy, which was formed by the collapse of a star. The previous peak value that was observed was only around 21 solar masses.

But “Gaia BH3” is far from the most massive black hole in the Milky Way. It has long been known that in the center of our galaxy there is a supermassive black hole, the monster “Sagittarius A*”, which weighs four million times as much as the sun. However, this was not caused by the collapse of a dying old star.

According to ESO, the new black hole was discovered by the European Space Agency ESA’s “Gaia” space probe, which was launched in 2013 and moves through the Milky Way and maps it with an on-board observatory. It stood out because its immense mass and the resulting gravitational pull caused its companion star to go into a kind of tumbling motion.

Scientists then used an extremely powerful large telescope from ESO in Chile and other ground-based observatories to confirm the discovery and calculate the mass of “Gaia BH3” more precisely. It therefore has 33 times the mass of the sun.

“No one expected to find a massive black hole lurking nearby that has so far remained undetected,” said astromer Pasquale Panuz of the Observatoire de Paris, part of France’s National Center for Scientific Research. He led the data analysis, which is now published in the journal “Astronomy

Astronomers have already found similarly massive stellar black holes in other galaxies outside the Milky Way. They suspect that these objects arise from the collapse of so-called metal-poor stars. These contain only a few chemical elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The theory is that they lose less mass over their lifetime than other stars. When they ultimately collapse, very massive black holes are formed.

According to ESO, evidence of this was also found in the study of “Gaia BH3” and its companion star. Spectral analyzes revealed that the companion star is very metal-poor. Since pairs of binary stars tend to have very similar properties, the researchers assume that the star that collapsed into the black hole was also metal-poor.

According to the information, ESO’s Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile was used for the investigation. It consists of four individual telescopes that can be connected together. The ESO is a research community that brings together 16 European countries. It operates other observatories and cooperates with research partners from all over the world.

Watch the video: A black hole – the laws of physics seem to be out of force there. Anyone who falls in is gone. What exactly is a black hole? How does it work?