discovery of “Gaïa BH3”, a massive black hole that baffles experts

discovery of “Gaïa BH3”, a massive black hole that baffles experts
discovery of “Gaïa BH3”, a massive black hole that baffles experts

New discovery in the Milky Way. A black hole named “Gaia BH3” has been detected, announces an article published Tuesday, April 16, in the journal Astronomy&Astrophysics Letters. Its mass is estimated at nearly 33 times that of the Sun and this is what “makes this discovery particularly remarkable”, underlines the Paris Observatory.

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Since the theorization of “black holes” in 1967 by physicist John Wheeler, black holes have become space objects that attract the attention of experts and the public. “Nothing can come of it, there is an apocalyptic and mysterious side”, analyzes Guillaume Langin, scientific journalist, for the magazine Sky&space. And Gaia BH3 has several other reasons to fascinate.

The most massive stellar black hole “ever discovered” in the Milky Way

This stellar black hole was discovered using a particular technique: astrometry. “It is a branch of astronomy consisting of measuring the position and speed of stars with great precision,” explains Guillaume Langin. And it was the Gaia telescope, developed by the European Space Agency, which made the discovery possible. This is the third time that this object launched from the Kourou space base has detected a black hole, hence the name: Gaia Black Hole 3.

Stellar black holes are distinguished from those called supermassive, “whose mass is twice that of the Sun”, specifies Guillaume Langin. They are also different from tiny black holes which have a mass equivalent to that of Earth and remain “theoretical products never yet detected which would have formed in the first seconds following the Big Bang”, he continues.

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Stellar black holes have a mass less than or equivalent to 10 solar masses and form after the death of a massive star. However, Gaia BH3 is an exception to the rule because its mass is estimated at nearly 33 times that of the Sun. “ It is the most massive stellar black hole ever discovered in our Milky Way.said Pasquale Panuzzo, researcher at CNRS.

A “dormant” black hole

Gaia BH3 has another particularity: it is a dormant black hole. Usually, stellar black holes are accompanied by a star, which allows them to agglomerate the material that it spits out. But not Gaia BH3, underlines Guillaume Langin. : “ It is too far from its companion star to swallow matter. As a result, it does not gain mass” .

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If the presence of this black hole surprises experts, it is also because it raises the question of the death of stars. The commonly accepted theory is that massive stars swell and then expel material before they die. In doing so, their mass drops and then they explode, causing a supernova.

However, due to its disproportionate size, Gaia BH3 has becomenaked an attraction “for theorists who work on the death of stars”, assures the science journalist. The ball is now in their court to try to better understand the reasons for its formation and obtain details on the different ways in which a star can die.

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