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‘Unicorn’ spotted just 1,500 light-years from Earth makes it the closest black hole to our planet

‘Unicorn’ spotted just 1,500 light-years from Earth makes it the closest black hole to our planet ever discovered

  • Scientist identified the smallest and closest black hole to Earth
  • Named ‘The Unicorn,’ it is only 1,500 light years from our planet
  • The black hole is also just three times the mass of our sun
  • Experts identified it after observing its companion red giant being tugged
  • The black hole was tugging the star into a teardrop shape
  • This is similar to how the how the moon’s gravity distorts the Earth’s oceans

A newly discovered black hole has been deemed the closest to Earth and smallest ever to be observed.

Dubbed ‘The Unicorn,’ this one-of-a-kind black hole sits just 1,500 light-years from Earth and is only three times the mass of our sun.

‘Because the system is so unique and so weird, you know, it definitely warranted the nickname of ‘The Unicorn,’ discovery team leader Tharindu Jayasinghe, an astronomy Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University said in a video.

Scientists say ‘it was essentially hiding in plain sight,’ but were only able to detect the black hole by its bloated red giant star companion.

When the team noticed the red giant’s lift shifts periodically, as if something was tagging at the star, which led them to conclude the ‘tidal disruption is produced by the tidal force of an unseen companion – a black hole.’

 

A new black hole (left) has been identified that is the closest to Earth and smallest ever to be observed. Scientists say ‘it was essentially hiding in plain sight,’ but were only able to detect the black hole by its bloated red giant star companion (right)

Not only is The Unicorn rare in size, but it has astounded scientists by its close proximity to Earth – and that it has gone undetected for so long.

Kris Stanek, study co-author, astronomy professor at Ohio State and university distinguished scholar, said: ‘When you look in a different way, which is what we’re doing, you find different things.

‘Tharindu looked at this thing that so many other people had looked at and instead of dismissing the possibility that it could be a black hole, he said, ‘Well, what if it could be a black hole?’

However, the team may never have identified the new black hole if not for its companion, which was being tugged into a teardrop shape in a way that is similar to how the moon’s gravity distorts the Earth’s oceans.

Dubbed 'The Unicorn,' this one-of-a-kind black hole sits just 1,500 light-years from Earth and is only three times the mass of our sun

Dubbed ‘The Unicorn,’ this one-of-a-kind black hole sits just 1,500 light-years from Earth and is only three times the mass of our sun

Todd Thompson, co-author of the study, chair of Ohio State’s astronomy department and university distinguished scholar, said: ‘The simplest explanation is that it’s a black hole – and in this case, the simplest explanation is the most likely one.’

By measuring the Doppler Shift, a change in observed wavelength, and Ellipsoidal Variability, which is the star’s distortion from gravitational effects from a companion, researchers could only conclude there is a black hole.

‘The velocity of the red giant, the period of the orbit and the way in which the tidal force distorted the red giant told them the black hole’s mass, leading them to conclude that this black hole was about three solar masses, or three times that of the sun, the Ohio State team shared in a statement.

By measuring the Doppler Shift, a change in observed wavelength, and Ellipsoidal Variability, which is the star's distortion from gravitational effects from a companion, researchers could only conclude there is a black hole

By measuring the Doppler Shift, a change in observed wavelength, and Ellipsoidal Variability, which is the star’s distortion from gravitational effects from a companion, researchers could only conclude there is a black hole

In recent years, more large-scale experiments to try and locate smaller black holes have launched, and Thompson said he expects to see more ‘mass gap’ black holes discovered in the future.

‘I think the field is pushing toward this, to really map out how many low-mass, how many intermediate-mass and how many high-mass black holes there are, because every time you find one it gives you a clue about which stars collapse, which explode and which are in between,’ he said.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk