Black hole 33 times size of Sun discovered ‘lurking nearby’ Earth is Milky Way’s largest

Astronomers have made a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery – the largest known black hole in our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Dubbed Gaia BH3, the huge region of spacetime is believed to be 33 times the size of the Sun, according to a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

It dwarfs the previous record-holder, Cygnus X-1, which was 21 times the Sun’s mass.

Situated around 2,000 light-years away from Earth, this black hole is the second-closest to our solar system.

Gaia BH3 was discovered after astronomers analysed data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, spotting a strange “wobbling” motion in a star located in the constellation of Aquila.

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This “wobbling” was thought to be caused by a star that was orbiting a black hole.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) and other observatories, astronomers were able to confirm their suspicions.

Shocked by their find, the team released the details earlier than planned to enable other astronomers to perform further observations as soon as possible.

Study author Pasquale Panuzzo, an astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris, part of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), said in a statement: “No one was expecting to find a high-mass black hole lurking nearby, undetected so far.

“This is the kind of discovery you make once in your research life.

“It is a complete surprise, it is the most massive stellar origin black hole in our galaxy and the second nearest discovered so far.”

Further observations of this system could reveal more about the black hole itself, as well as the history and formation of the universe.

Stellar black holes form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life.

They have a much smaller mass compared to supermassive black holes, which can be millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun and are found at the centres of galaxies, including our own.

There are around 50 stellar black holes that scientists have discovered in the Milky Way, according to NASA.


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