Aliens? Check. A super rare black hole ready to pull us into our impending doom? Uh, a half-check on that one. 2020 isn’t short on the dystopian department, and a black hole heavier than the sun’s mass is one of them—but it might be tame from where we stand.
Here’s a quick astronomy lesson: Black holes usually come in two kinds. There are 1) stellar black holes that have a mass range of five to several tens of its stellar-mass, and 2) supermassive black holes (yes, that Muse song from the “Twilight” baseball scene), which have masses millions to billions the mass of the sun. Smack-dab in the middle is the ultra-rare, intermediate-mass black holes that have never been found. Well, until now.
For the first time in history, an international group of astronomers working with the Laser Interferometry Gravitational Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration recently revealed their discovery of that immediate-mass black hole. It’s around 142 times the mass of our sun. According to Dr. Karen Jani of Vanderbilt University, the black hole was formed by two separate smaller black holes, birthing this large black hole baby. (Congrats!)
“This is a milestone in modern astronomy and a personal milestone after six years of intensive research of hunting these elusive black holes,” says Dr. Jani. “The system we’ve discovered is so bizarre that it breaks a number of previous assumptions about how black holes form.”
In conclusion: 2020 makes for a better and more believable sci-fi flick than 2009’s “2012.”
Supermassive black hole photo courtesy of NASA