A black hole lying just 1000 light-years from Earth has been discovered by a team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory. It is known to be closer to our Solar System than any other found to date and forms part of a triple system that can be seen with the naked eye. Located in the constellation of Telescopium, it can be viewed from the southern hemisphere on a dark, clear night without a telescope or binoculars. What it is truly formidable is this is the first stellar system with a black hole that can be seen with the unaided eye.
Astronomers have also found a star that survived being swallowed by a black hole.
A black hole’s behaviour is known to be normal when they belch out tremendous flares of X-rays, generated by the material heating to intense temperatures as it’s sucked towards the black hole, so bright we can detect them from Earth. What isn’t normal is for those X-ray flares to spew forth with clockwork regularity, a puzzling behaviour reported last year from a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy 250 million light-years away. Every nine hours, boom – X-ray flare. After some studies, it was discovered that a dead star was the cause. It endured its brush with a black hole, trapped on a nine-hour, elliptical orbit around it.
“In astronomical terms, this event is only visible to our current telescopes for a short time – about 2,000 years, so unless we were extraordinarily lucky to have caught this one, there may be many more that we are missing elsewhere in the Universe,” – Andrew King, Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy.