Scientists Catch Star And Possible Black Hole In A Rapid, Dangerous Dance

Mar 15, 2017

By Merrit Kennedy

Scientists have caught sight of a star extremely close to what they think is a black hole, whizzing around it at an extraordinary speed — at least twice an hour. As NASA put it, “This may be the tightest orbital dance ever witnessed for a likely black hole and a companion star.”

The pair is in our galaxy, in an area dense with stars some 14,800 light-years from Earth.

Researchers believe the object is a black hole, although other explanations are possible, Michigan State University’s Arash Bahramian tells The Two-Way. He’s the lead author of a recent paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society detailing the team’s findings.

They’re confident the star caught in the dance is a white dwarf, which is the dense remnant of a star, like our sun, after it has died. The white dwarf is close enough to the black hole that it is “pulling matter from the white dwarf onto itself,” another indicator of how close the pair is, Bahramian says.

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