The stupendous weight of the sun is utterly inconceivable, but the black hole that Polish professor Krzysztof Belczyński helped to discover is a mind-bogglingly 70 times heavier.
“We will be updating the astronomy textbooks,” professor Belczyński of the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre in Warsaw announced following the discovery of the heaviest black hole in the Milky Way – a true “stellar mass” monster that defies widely accepted models of black hole evolution.
“Black holes are born when a star at least 20 times heavier than our Sun reaches the end of its life and collapses on itself,” elucidated the Polish professor, adding that “smaller stars burn out their fuel, expand into red giants and end their lives as exposed neutron stars or white dwarfs.”
As marvellous as it is, the discovery has a darker side, as it is likely to cost professor Belczyński 3 bottles of wine, after he bet colleagues black holes this heavy would be near-impossible to find. “I will probably lose three bottles of wine over this bet. But for the good of science, it’s worth it.”
However, the work is far from over for the Polish professor and his colleagues. “I will now have a challenge before me – I will have to find out how black holes 70 times heavier than the Sun form. Because we know now they do form in nature,” said the scientist.
The black hole was found with the aid of the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST). Using the amazing apparatus, the scientists observed a region of space where stars seemed to orbit an invisible object. Such eye-eluding cosmic objects are likely to be black holes, otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
Astronomers spotted a star whose movements indicated it was racing around an object 70 times heavier than the Sun. The object received the “LB-1” signature and goes down in history as the first-ever black hole discovered using the “radial velocity method”.
Capable of swallowing whole stars, the LB-1 would not break a sweat consuming tiny Earth. However, those fearing imminent cataclysm can rest easy, as the supermassive black hole was found approximately 15,000 light-years or 88,179,400,000,000,000 miles from our home.