Once again, science is encountering something about the Universe that it can’t explain for the moment. Black holes are thought to be pretty large cosmic objects, with once the smallest known black hole being 5 times the mass of the Sun. They form after a star consumes its fuel and collapses into its own gravity.
However, a recent discovery proves that a black hole can be much smaller than scientists thought possible. Dr. Todd Thompson, professor of astronomy at Ohio State University and lead author of the recent study, decided to look forward for the concept of black holes. Scientists studied data gathered by using the Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), which studies the spectra of hundreds of thousands of stars from our Milky Way galaxy. Thus, the team found a red giant star with an invisible companion near it, which has a mass in the range of 2.6 – 6.1 times that of the Sun.
A new definition for black holes?
As you might have guessed, it’s very unlikely that the object could be anything else than a small black hole. A black hole so small that it baffled the minds of scientists. If more precise measurements done by scientists will result in a mass of about 3.3 solar masses, astronomers will have to come with new explanations regarding the models of black hole formation.
Also, if the new measurements will conclude that the black hole has a mass at the edges of the range reported above, the object could instead be an extremely heavy neutron star.
Whatever the final outcome of the research will be, it’s the mystery itself that makes astronomy such a beautiful domain. Perhaps in the near future, humanity will understand more about black holes – why they behave as they do, where do they lead to, or why are they capable of defying the laws of physics.