Huge black hole found

MILKY WAY: ‘IM­POS­SI­BLE SIZE’ WITH MASS 70 TIMES GREATER THAN SUN

The Citizen (KZN) - - World - Bei­jing

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

Pic­ture: 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.

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