The recent discovery of a black hole lurking in a star system close to Earth was quite a surprise for a team of astronomers. They located the nearest black hole to Earth, so far, only 1,000 light-years away.
The finding of this cosmic feature was not only an unexpected event, but it might support astronomers’ work. It might also come as a massive surprise to stargazers who live in the southern hemisphere. The black hole, dubbed HR 6819, has been hiding every night, in plain view, to them.
Black Hole Hides in a Close to Earth Star System
HR 6819 has been identified as a double-star system, with two massive blue stars that orbit each other. But some things were about to change. A team of astronomers took a closer look while examining “binary” star systems. What they discovered was intriguing yet shocking. The central star of the system seemed to be orbiting an unseen, third space object.
With that discovery, the astronomers realized three simultaneous findings. HR 6819 is now defined as a triple system, the hidden component was only a newfound black hole, and this was the nearest to our planet ever found.
“We were totally surprised when we realized that this is the first stellar system with a black hole that can be seen with the unaided eye,” detailed Petr Hadrava, the co-author of the study.
The Black Hole Was Elusive For a Long Time
However, how could a black hole have stayed hidden there for so long? This new black hole is “extremely black,” according to astronomers. Black holes are named “black” because they don’t send any radiation or light.
The only way to discover one is to search for any effects of its gravitational pull. Most black holes that got a companion star end up surrounded by a disk of particles that was pulled off the exterior layers of its companion.
Such a thing has been dubbed the “accretion disk.” As the components in the disk turn closer and closer to the black hole, it is heated to extreme temperatures, making it to send hard radiation like x-rays. These x-rays are what indicate astronomers’ that somewhere is a black hole.