Astronomers discover supermassive black hole in the Milky Way galaxy 70 TIMES larger than the Sun that according to current scientific understanding should NOT exist
- Black hole, dubbed LB-1, has a mass that is 70 times greater than the sun
- Experts say it’s impossible for something this size to form in the Milky Way
- It couldn’t have bee formed by a supernova, but by another physical mechanism
Astronomers have discovered a black hole in the Milky Way so massive that it challenges existing models of how stars evolve.
Called LB-1, this black hole is 15,000 light years from Earth and has a mass 70 times greater than the Sun.
LB-1’s large mass falls into a range known as the ‘pair instability gap’ where supernovae should not have produced it, leading experts to believe this is a new kind a black hole, formed by another physical mechanism.
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.
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LB-1 (artist impression) is 15,000 light years from Earth and has a mass 70 times greater than the Sun. The black holes’s large mass falls into a range known as the ‘pair instability gap’ where supernovae should not have produced it
‘Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,’ he added.
Scientists generally believe that 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 center 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.’
The Milky Way is estimated to contain 100 million stellar black holes, but LB-1 is twice as massive as anything scientists thought possible, researchers say
David Reitze, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology who was not involved in the discovery, told AFP: ‘Astronomers are still only beginning to grasp ‘the abundance of black holes and the mechanisms by which they form.’
Stellar black holes are usually formed in the aftermath of supernova explosions, a phenomenon that occurs when extremely large stars burn out at the end of their lives.
‘LB-1’s large mass falls into a range ‘known as the ‘pair instability gap’ where supernovae should not have produced it,’ Reitze said.
‘That means that this is a new kind a black hole, formed by another physical mechanism!’
LB-1 was discovered by an international team of scientists using China’s sophisticated LAMOST telescope.
Additional images from two of the world’s largest optical telescopes -Spain’s Gran Telescopio Canarias and the Keck I telescope in the United States -confirmed that the size of LB-1, which the National Astronomical Observatory of China said was ‘nothing short of fantastic’.
WHAT ARE BLACK HOLES?
Black holes are so dense and their gravitational pull is so strong that no form of radiation can escape them – not even light.
They act as intense sources of gravity which hoover up dust and gas around them. Their intense gravitational pull is thought to be what stars in galaxies orbit around.
How they are formed is still poorly understood. Astronomers believe they may form when a large cloud of gas up to 100,000 times bigger than the sun, collapses into a black hole.
Many of these black hole seeds then merge to form much larger supermassive black holes, which are found at the centre of every known massive galaxy.
Alternatively, a supermassive black hole seed could come from a giant star, about 100 times the sun’s mass, that ultimately forms into a black hole after it runs out of fuel and collapses.
When these giant stars die, they also go ‘supernova’, a huge explosion that expels the matter from the outer layers of the star into deep space.
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