The Slovenia Times

Slovenians help uncover biggest black hole in Milky Way

Science & Education
A star moving around a newly discovered black hole in the centre of the picture. Photo: Courtesy of the Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics

Slovenian astrophysicists Andreja Gomboc and Toma┼ż Zwitter have been part of a team that discovered the most massive stellar black hole yet found in the Milky Way. Unlike similar discoveries in distant galaxies, this one allows more in-depth research into the origin of such massive black holes.

Wading through the data provided by the European Space Agency's Gaia mission, the team stumbled upon a dormant black hole with a mass of nearly 33 times the size of the Sun.

Located in the constellation Aquila, a mere 2,000 light-years from Earth, it is the biggest black hole of stellar origin ever spotted in our galaxy. Since it is the third dormant black hole found with Gaia, it was named Gaia BH3.

The ESA's Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium released details of the discovery in the peer-reviewed journal Astronomy and Astrophysics on 16 April.

The report's lead author is Pasquale Panuzzo, who works at the Paris Observatory, while Zwitter (Ljubljana Faculty of Mathematics and Physics) and Gomboc (University of Nova Gorica) are among the co-authors.

Zwitter has been part of the Gaia team for 23 years and has played a significant role in the design and data processing of the satellite's spectroscopic instrument, which was crucial in confirming the discovery, his faculty said.

It added that the relative proximity of the black hole Gaia BH3 will allow more detailed research into the formation of such massive black holes and their properties. Gaia BH3 is the second-closest known black hole to Earth.

"Less than ten years ago, when we discovered black hole mergers with the help of gravitational waves, it was not clear how these black holes in faraway galaxies came to be and how they could be of such large mass.

"But now we have the first example of such a massive black hole literally in our neighbourhood, and since it was formed from a normal star, we can actually say for the first time that even more distant massive black holes were formed from normal stars," Zwitter told the Slovenian Press Agency.


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