This Massive Black Hole Is Defying Science

The black hole is said to be 15,000 lightyears away from Earth, which is relatively close by cosmic standards, and 70 times larger than the sun.

YU Jingchuan, Beijing Planetarium

A team of scientists in China have discovered a huge black hole that defies current theories on their mass and formation.

The stellar-mass black hole was discovered by a team of scientists led by professor Liu Jifeng of the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC). They named the black hole LB-1, which has been studied over a two-year period and published in a new issue of Nature. 

LB-1 is said to be 15,000 lightyears away from Earth, which is relatively close by cosmic standards. Scientists have long held the belief that black holes in the Milky Way are formed from dying suns and are typically only 10 to 20 times greater than the sun’s size. LB-1 is 70 times greater than the sun. 

“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our Galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution," Jifeng said. “We thought that very massive stars with the chemical composition typical of our Galaxy must shed most of their gas in powerful stellar winds, as they approach the end of their life. Therefore, they should not leave behind such a massive remnant. LB-1 is twice as massive as what we thought possible. Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation.”

Scientists have long thought that stellar-mass black holes would lose a good amount of their size once the star dies, but LB-1 is a new discovery that puts a crack in that theory due to its mass. Supermassive black holes are typically the larger entities in space, containing millions of remnants of cosmic material, while being positioned in the center of galaxies. 

Stellar black holes are hard to detect. Because of their density, light is unable to escape them, making them difficult to find. Until recently, black holes were unable to be discovered without the presence of a companion star. Because of this, only about two dozen black holes have been confirmed and measured. 

LB-1 was discovered after scientists saw a star, which was eight times heavier than the sun, orbiting it every 79 days.