NASA’s Hubble Telescope is spying for a potential black hole roaming the Milky Way

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

Zero mass is thought to lie 5,000 light-years away in the Milky Way’s Carina Sagittarius spiral arm. However, its discovery over the past six years of research has led scientists to believe that there is a closer black hole, only about 80 light-years away. Don’t worry just yet – and not nearly as earth shattering. But this discovery is a first for scientists and a milestone for the Hubble telescope.

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

Sahu led a two-team team that used Hubble observations to identify a potential black hole. Saho’s team definitely thinks the object is a black hole, while another team, led by Casey Lamm of the University of California-Berkeley, thinks it could be a black hole or a neutron star about to explode.

“Whatever this object is, it’s the first dark remnant of a star discovered to be wandering through the galaxy unaccompanied by another star,” Lamm said.

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

NASA, European Space Agency and Kailash Sahu (STScI); Image processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)

The discovery was achieved through a rationale called atrometric microlenses, which is easy to interpret but difficult to identify in space. Perhaps a black hole will be found when telescopes on Earth observe stars that temporarily appear brighter or dimmer. Much like a fisheye lens distorts an image, this happens when a black hole passes between Earth and a star, making it look different. Here is NASA’s statement:

For the past six years, scientists from both teams have used Hubble to dig deeper into the precise atrometric lens observations made by telescopes on Earth. In doing so, they found the first-ever evidence of a single black hole drifting through the universe, according to NASA.

Scientists expect thousands of black holes to be floating in space.

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