A team of European astronomers has discovered a black hole 1,000 light years from Earth, the closest yet found to our solar system.
According to the authors of a study, published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the black hole is close enough that two stars affected by it can be seen with the naked eye.
Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and other institutes found evidence for the invisible object by tracking the two companion stars using a 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. They were able to confirm that something about four or five times the mass of our sun was pulling on the inner star and concluded it could only be a black hole.
They say finding a black hole this close could be just the tip of the iceberg, as many more similar black holes could be found in the future.
The authors say that is valuable because "by finding and studying them, we can learn a lot about the formation and evolution of those rare stars that begin their lives with more than about 8 times the mass of the sun and end them in a supernova explosion that leaves behind a black hole."