Huge black hole found
MILKY WAY: ‘IMPOSSIBLE SIZE’ WITH MASS 70 TIMES GREATER THAN SUN
Astronomers have discovered a black hole in the Milky Way so huge that it challenges existing models of how stars evolve, researchers said yesterday.
LB-1 is 15 000 light years from Earth and has a mass 70 times greater than the sun, according to the journal Nature.
The Milky Way is estimated to contain 100 million stellar black holes but LB-1 is twice as massive as anything scientists thought possible, said Liu Jifeng, a National Astronomical Observatory of China professor who led the research.
“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,” he said.
Scientists believe there are two types of black holes.
The more common stellar black holes – up to 20 times more massive than the sun – form when the centre of a very big star collapses in on itself.
Supermassive black holes are at least a million times bigger than the sun and their origins are uncertain.
But researchers believed that typical stars in the Milky Way shed most of their gas through stellar winds, preventing the emergence of a black hole the size of LB-1, Liu said.
“Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation.”
Astronomers are still only beginning to grasp “the abundance of black holes”, David Reitze, a physicist at the California Institute
of Technology (Caltech), said.
The observatory at Caltech, overseen by Reitze, had previously detected ripples in spacetime that suggested the possibility of black holes in distant galaxies that were much bigger than was thought possible. – AFP
HOLEY MOLEY. A rendering by artist Yu Jingchuan of the accretion of gas onto a stellar black hole from its blue companion star. Astronomers have discovered a huge black hole in the Milky Way.