NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope May Have Spotted First Ever Free-Floating Back Hole

There are an estimated 100 million black holes scattered throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Each star that astronomers have identified is part of a larger neighborhood of stars and other objects that share some form of gravity. But scientists believe that, in absolute terms, there must be some black holes that are rogue wanderers, floating aimlessly through interstellar space without any humans. Any companions around.

Looks like astronomers have finally found one. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has detected evidence of a lone black hole drifting around space, 5,000 light-years away. And what’s more, its discovery suggests that the closest possible rogue black hole to Earth is about 80 light-years away.

The researchers behind the new discovery, published in Two articles have been accepted for publication via Astrophysics Magazine, use caution when the new object is not a verified black hole; it could simply be another type of massive object like a neutron star. However, if these findings stand up, this virtual black hole will be unlike anything astronomers have seen before.

These two papers are notable for using the same stack of data collected by Hubble, as well as ground-based instruments located in Chile and New Zealand. Both found new objects through a technique called microlensing, which observes how the motion, brightness, and curvature of light traveling through space change due to the gravity of other objects.

The papers differed slightly in their estimates of the new object’s distance. They also reached different conclusions about how fast the object was traveling — one estimate was 30 km/s, while the other was 45 km/s.

A little more analysis is needed to confirm the new object is a black hole, but regardless, the discovery points the way to other rogue black holes and mysterious objects that are quietly drifting across the wide expanse. great.

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