Monster black hole discovered in Milky Way

Called LB-1, this thing is much larger than scientists expect to see outside the centre of a galaxy
monster black hole An artist's interpretation of LB-1, including the star that is orbiting it. (YU Jingchuan/Beijing Planetarium)


Chinese astronomers have discovered a monster black hole in the Milky Way that is blowing away their expectations.

Called LB-1 (we would've gone with Gigantor or Monstro-Heimer, but that's just us), this thing has the mass of around 70 suns. So it's not messing around. But that's not exactly huge for a black hole.

In fact, there are huge black holes out there with masses that equal over 20 billion suns. The one at the very centre of the Milky Way — Sagitarrius A — is the mass of 4 million suns and is the engine that drives the entire cluster. So why does LB-1 get to have the title of monster black hole?

Off-centre

monster black hole

Though LB-1 is bigger than expected, it's still far smaller than the supermassive black holes found at the centre of a galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It's all about location. LB-1 is not at the centre of the a galaxy, making its relatively large size very curious. Because while scientists predict that a galaxy like ours could have as many as 100 million black holes scattered around it, they also think that they would be fairly small. This is because these types — called stellar mass black holes — should be formed by stars that have lost a lot of their mass as they die.

So how did LB-1 form? Why is it three times large than scientists would expect? Those are really great questions. And as with many things in space, the answer is far from clear. There's even the possibility that it is actually two black holes orbiting each other, or a case of one black hole absorbing the other.

For now, they do know that a large star about eight times the size of the Sun orbits it, and that it is 13,800 light years from Earth. We'd know more about it if it was a closer. But given that it's a monster black hole and all, we're pretty comfortable knowing that it is where it is.

 


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  1. I think that the thing about the black hole is pretty cool but also pretty weird. That’s Because we don’t know why it’s that big for where it is but small compared to some. ^﹏^

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