Astronomers are celebrating after discovering a new black hole in space that is not only the closest example of the phenomenon to Earth, but is also technically visible to the naked eye.
According to National Geographic, the new black hole is located in the star system HR 6819, meaning that it is only 1,011 light-years away from our solar system. In contrast, the black hole that had previously been considered the closest to Earth is located over 3,500 light-years away.
Though the distance is definitely large by human standards, it is actually quite close in astronomic ones. In fact, the black hole is so close that it can be seen, in a matter of speaking, from certain areas on Earth.
Those in the Southern Hemisphere will be able to see the black hole by searching for the Telescopium constellation. A bright blue source of light in the cluster is actually two stars close in orbit to one another in a triple system that also includes the black hole.
Though some may argue that it is impossible to “see” a black hole as it absorbs all light, stargazers can nevertheless look up knowing they have eyes on a black hole.
Though the closeness of the new black hole is exciting enough, there is another reason that astronomers are encouraged by the new discovery. It has long been hypothesized that the Milky Way is filled with hundreds or even thousands of black holes.
The new finding suggests that this theory is correct.
“If you find one that is very close to you, and you assume you’re not special, then they must be out there everywhere,” says lead study author Thomas Rivinius, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile.
“If you find an ant while scanning a tiny fraction of your kitchen, you know there must be many more out there,” echoed Avi Loeb, director of Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative. Though Loeb was not involved in the research, he added that it was also “likely that there are black holes much closer than this one,” as Time reported.
Other astronomers have agreed that the discovery could start a new search for even closer black holes.
“It will motivate additional searches among bright, relatively nearby stars,” added Ohio State University astronomer Todd Thompson.
The black hole is not the only new discovery in the world of astronomy. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, researchers recently found the existence of more than 100 small planets located at the edge of our solar system.