Scientists in China have recently observed a black hole (named LB-1) that challenges current black hole theory. Since black holes don’t reflect light (and thus cannot be seen), scientists measure the light coming off objects circling black holes to “see” them, to identify their presence. In this particular case, a star completes its trip around LB-1 every 79 days, which suggests its massive size. LB-1 is not the only massive black hole that’s been observed recently. Scientists elsewhere have picked up gravitational-waves from collisions that indicate that the black holes involved were bigger than expected.
A Problem with Distance
One problem with the findings of this Chinese study is that Europe’s powerful Gaia telescope estimated the distance of LB-1 to be about 7,000 light years away, about half the distance that the Chinese astrophysicists calculated. Measuring distance is space can be tricky, so both groups have to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, they shouldn’t be that far off.
Black Hole Origins
When massive stars run out of fuel, black holes can form as a result of their demise. As a star’s mass collapses in on itself, due to gravity, the atoms are able to overcome the strong nuclear force and the nuclei condense into a dense point or singularity. This singularity generates enormous gravitational pull, which sucks in all near by matter including light. Hence the black in black hole. This type of black hole is called a stellar black hole. Another type is called a supermassive black hole. It forms when several stellar black holes merge.