NASA’s Hubble Telescope spies possible black hole roaming the Milky Way

New findings from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope likely confirm the existence of a black hole in our galaxy.

The mass of nothingness is believed to be 5,000 light years away in the Carina-Sagittarius spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. However, its discovery over the last six years of research has led scientists to believe there is a closer black hole, only about 80 light years away. Don’t fret just yet—neither are anywhere near sucking up the Earth. But the discovery is a first for scientists and a milestone for Hubble.

“Detections of isolated black holes will provide new insights into the population of these objects in our Milky Way,” said Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore in a NASA press release about the discovery.

Sahu led one of two teams that used observations from Hubble to identify the potential black hole. Sahu’s team believes the object is definitely a black hole, while another team led by Casey Lam of the University of California-Berkeley thinks it could either be a black hole or neutron star about to implode.

“Whatever it is, the object is the first dark stellar remnant discovered wandering through the galaxy, unaccompanied by another star,” Lam said.

These observations show what NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observed to help scientists determine the existence of a roaming black hole in our galaxy.

NASA, ESA, and Kailash Sahu (STScI); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The discovery was made through a basic principle called atrometric microlensing, which is easy enough to explain but harder to identify in deep space. A black hole is possibly found when telescopes on Earth observe stars that temporarily appear brighter or dimmer. Similar to how a fish-eye lens distorts an image, this happens when the black hole passes between the Earth and a star, making it appear different. Here’s NASA’s explanation:

Over the last six years, scientists on both teams used Hubble to dig further into these atrometric microlensing observations made from telescopes on Earth. In doing so, they found the first-ever evidence of a lone black hole drifting through the universe, according to NASA.

Scientists predict there to be thousands of black holes floating in space.

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