Astronomers Uncover Black Hole Closer to Earth Than Ever Before

Black Hole Event Horizon Artistic Illustration

Astronomers made a groundbreaking discovery by detecting a dormant stellar-mass black hole, the closest one to Earth yet found in the Milky Way. This first unambiguous detection of such a black hole presents an exciting opportunity for study, as it is only 1,600 light-years away and can provide insights into the evolution of binary systems.

Gemini North Telescope on Hawaii reveals first dormant, stellar-mass black hole.

Astronomers have discovered the closest black hole to Earth, the first unambiguous detection of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way. Its close proximity to Earth, a mere 1,600 light-years away, offers an intriguing target of study to advance understanding of the evolution of binary systems.

The U.S. National Science Foundation provided funding support for the work. The astronomers used the Gemini North Telescope on Hawaii, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, one of the twin telescopes of the International Gemini Observatory.

The discovery was made possible by making observations of the motion of the black hole’s companion, a sunlike star that orbits the black hole at about the same distance as the Earth orbits the sun. Though there are likely millions of stellar-mass black holes in the Milky Way galaxy, those few that have been detected were uncovered by their energetic interactions with a companion star. As material from a nearby star spirals in toward the black hole, it becomes superheated and generates powerful X-rays and jets of material. If a black hole is not actively feeding, it is dormant and not directly detectable.

Artist’s Impression of the Closest Black Hole to Earth and Its Sun-Like Companion Star

Astronomers using the International Gemini Observatory, operated by NSF’s NOIRLab, have discovered the closest-known black hole to Earth. This is the first unambiguous detection of a dormant stellar-mass black hole in the Milky Way. Its close proximity to Earth, a mere 1600 light-years away, offers an intriguing target of study to advance our understanding of the evolution of binary systems. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine/M. Zamani

This dormant black hole is about 10 times more massive than the sun and is located about 1,600 light-years away in the constellation Ophiuchus, making it three times closer to Earth than the previous record holder.

“Take the solar system, put a black hole where the sun is, and the sun where the Earth is, and you get this system,” explained Kareem El-Badry, an astrophysicist and lead author of a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The team relied not only on Gemini North’s superb observational capabilities but also on Gemini’s ability to provide data on a tight deadline, as the team had only a short window in which to perform their follow-up observations.

“As part of a network of space- and ground-based observatories, Gemini North has not only provided strong evidence for the nearest black hole to date but also the first pristine black hole system, uncluttered by the usual hot gas interacting with the black hole,” said NSF Gemini Program Officer Martin Still.

For more on this research:

Reference: “A Sun-like star orbiting a black hole” by Kareem El-Badry, Hans-Walter Rix, Eliot Quataert, Andrew W Howard, Howard Isaacson, Jim Fuller, Keith Hawkins, Katelyn Breivik, Kaze W K Wong, Antonio C Rodriguez, Charlie Conroy, Sahar Shahaf, Tsevi Mazeh, Frédéric Arenou, Kevin B Burdge, Dolev Bashi, Simchon Faigler, Daniel R Weisz, Rhys Seeburger, Silvia Almada Monter and Jennifer Wojno, 2 November 2022, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stac3140

The International Gemini Observatory is operated by a partnership of six countries: Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Korea, and the United States through NSF. The University of Hawaii manages the Gemini North site.

15 Comments on "Astronomers Uncover Black Hole Closer to Earth Than Ever Before"

  1. What are the chances of it swallowing earth? How do we know we are on the sucked in side or the already spit out side. I know they say the energy in it is massive. But any thing ever been through one to know what happens?may be there are paths off to the sides of the inside. Maybe it spits things out. Could the inside of one be a wrinkle in travel? Or worm hole?
    Can anything in it go fast enough to not be shredded? Just wondering…

  2. Dennis ODonnell | March 5, 2023 at 3:52 pm | Reply

    How dangerous is this to our solar system. Please projectits path0 to see if it is coming to us.

  3. david w. ferrin | March 5, 2023 at 9:15 pm | Reply

    SO to Dennis O’Donnell’s question it 1600 light year away…the problem I have is it states “G dwarf ⁠Temp(eff) = 5850 K” and if I go by the star program Celestia, the star in orbit of this black hole is G0III…

  4. Cynthia L Binder | March 6, 2023 at 6:06 am | Reply

    Blackholes are everywhere. Even star sun can n have become ⚫ holes. No , to worry if, in the path of blackhole dust u will be. But there is the Enos of cooling effects that dust becomes a planet again. Deva daya whooo would know that……. intellectual blackhole n whitelight is a reflection. Bamamamama got to get ready for a grilling out . Ham chicken and porkchops n pizza 🥦 must feed like the ⚫ hole.

  5. Pastor Jonathan Sarpei | March 6, 2023 at 10:13 am | Reply

    I think this black hole it’s a way to heaven.

  6. So as depicted in that picture, is that silver ring a dormant black hole?

    Ive had dreams of these things in the night sky. They were coming together and multiplying.

    Started off as one that split apart into 2. Then the two came together. When they split off from eachother the two became 4. Then they came together and split off from one another,and became 6 and so on. This went on until as far as my eyes could see, there were ten. But this was only as far across the night sky that I could see! I knew there were more around the planet. Then about numbers coming out in a line going out into space. I woke up yelling out “it’s binary!” I have no idea why it what all of this meant!

    These dormant black holes, If that’s what that silver ring thing in fact is, then I am especially intrigued about this. Because this means something exponential!

    Do these things at all come out of their dormancy? Is that possible? If like to know based on an actual knowledge of it being possible or not. Not an educated guess. Just has this been known to happen or not? If so, do they potentially put Us in Earth at any risk?

  7. Harry Jason l. | March 7, 2023 at 10:36 am | Reply

    I have believed that black holes create suns and since there is a bend in space time , newborn suns get spit out , much like when we get chicken pox or poison Ivey. Then the sun’s appear and other masses that make up our galaxies. I been thinkin of a lot of different ideas . also that our Universe has at least 1 fracture in it and probably at least 2.

  8. So we see it at a point it was at 16,000years ago.Where is it now?

  9. A huge col, and a water
    y planet in it?

  10. maqbool nisar ali beg | March 11, 2023 at 3:59 am | Reply

    Every day we keep on getting new theories/hypothesis about the universe .Actually we dont know much about the black holes ,dark energy etc we even do not fully understand the atom what to talk about as to how they were formed.we may not like/accept it but
    Most of these things are beyond human comprehension .God Almighty has given a limited knowledge to us humans but we are not readyto accept it. Only He has complete knowledge of everything. Leave aside the universe just look at our brain and body- how complex it is .The way brain communicates with the body and controls it through the complex system of nerves. Look at the eyes , ears, heart, lungs, stomach etc its nothing short of miracle.on top of it our DNA code is another miracle.The early we understand the plan, the design and power of our Maker the better it will be for us human beings.

    • holy s***. everyone here is dumb. I’ve never seen this level of not-knowing-what-your-talking-about in… EVER. ok, to start, Maqbool, I believe your view is a little short. Really the only thing about black holes we don’t understand (I’m calling scientists we) is its spin (already hypothesized to be infinite, which makes the black hole’s shape a ring) and its density. Its gravity checks out like any other mass, its formation and possible ways to form are known, and its properties can be found using other sources outside of the black hole, as no information passes out of it (other than gravity). keep in mind that this is the CLOSEST BLACK HOLE FOUND and it is 1600 lightyears away. IF it was travelling at the SPEED OF LIGHT, a speed which means it could go around the earth’s equator 17 times a second, it would still take 1,600 years before it got near the Solar System (given its moving directly towards Earth and is perfectly aligned with this planet). unfortunately, there is no evidence for a god, so it is only right to believe – or know, but it doesn’t sound right – that there is no god watching over us. especially not one people made up for themselves. I’m sorry to break the news. It’s true. You need a little thing called irrefutable evidence. Just go take a look at how evolution works in detail – I’m not asking you to believe it, but you need to know all possibly correct solutions before you assume one is right. The universe is bound by logic. You should start following that trend, or you’ll be unable to comprehend the most simple things, like black holes. Just watch a 5-minute video, it’s not hard… it’s all I’m asking. Screw it, here’s my email. [email protected] . If you even see this comment you can talk to me more there. Cya.

      • The speed of light is 7 times aound the earth at the equator, not 17 ( I’m sure that was just a typo). I agree that this black hole is no immediate threat to earth, even if was coming in our direction. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of years in the future if it does come close. There are bigger dangers out there.

  11. Watched a little on black holes but I’m just learning what is written. I’m not a scientist or astronomer. Can we get clarification on what direction it’s travelling and how far away it is now? Countries are going to war with each other over their own issue of power whilst our earth is dying and now outside threats like meteor 2023DW comes and now this. These leaks can cause world wide panic I know this but let’s face some facts and start bringing unity and peace while we can.

    • Zack Physicist | March 23, 2024 at 6:21 am | Reply

      Hi Raquel! I have good news for you. This is somethong you do not need to worry about. The black hole is 1600 lightYEARS away, and that means, even if it would be travelling straight ahead towards Earth at the cosmic maximal speed (speed of light), it would take 1600 years. If you are worried about your grandchildren in the 52nd generation, again good news is it is not heading straight towards us, but goes around the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Highly unlikely we encounter it in the next 100million years.

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