Researchers believe they have found the closest known black hole to Earth, and they have slapped the name "unicorn" because it's so special.
The supposed black hole that was found by researchers is located just 1,500 light-years away and is in the constellation Monoceros (the unicorn). The location of the black hole isn't the only reason why the black hole was called "The Unicorn". Another reason is that the black hole is very, very small, compared to other black holes.
The Unicorn resides next to a bloated red giant star that researchers observed that the light it was giving off was shifting periodically, which means that some other object was influencing the shape of the star - the tiny Unicorn black hole. By measuring the red giant star's influence from an outside object, researchers determined that the object that was influencing the red giant was a black hole with a mass of about three solar masses (three of our suns).
For comparison, the supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy (Sagittarius A) is about 4.3 million solar masses.
Study co-author Todd Thompson, chair of Ohio State's astronomy department, said, "Just as the moon's gravity distorts the Earth's oceans, causing the seas to bulge toward and away from the moon, producing high tides, so does the black hole distort the star into a football-like shape with one axis longer than the other. The simplest explanation is that it's a black hole - and in this case, the simplest explanation is the most likely one."
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