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Astronomers discover a nearby 'hidden' black hole

'Nearby' is a relative term when it comes to astronomy.
Mat Smith, @thatmatsmith
June 28, 2016
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Astronomers compared data (and notes, we'd like to imagine) on a "peculiar" source of radio waves, concluding that what was once thought to be a distant galaxy is actually a nearby binary star system, made up of a low-mass star and a black hole. It took data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to realize this -- and now researchers reckon there could be more hidden black holes out there.

This new study indicates that VLA J2130+12 is a black hole with a mass a few times bigger than our Sun. The black hole apparently didn't get spotted because it wasn't acting quite like the space phenomenon should when it's found in a binary system. "Usually, we find black holes when they are pulling in lots of material. Before falling into the black hole this material gets very hot and emits brightly in X-rays," said Bailey Tetarenko of the University of Alberta, Canada. "This one is so quiet that it's practically a stealth black hole."

According to NASA, estimates suggest that tens of thousands to millions of these black holes could exist within our Galaxy -- which is three to thousands of times as many as previously thought. "Unless we were incredibly lucky to find one source like this in a small patch of the sky, there must be many more of these black hole binaries in our Galaxy than we used to think," said co-author Arash Bahramian, also of the University of Alberta.

"Stealth black hole" sounds really, really cool. Now let's get a photo of one, please.

In this article: blackhole, blackholes, nasa, science, space
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