Astronomers have found the very first black hole outside of our Milky Way galaxy by observing a star in the region with a strange motion.
The researchers used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope located in Chile to peer into the star cluster NGC 1850 within the Large Magellanic Cloud. The astronomers were observing stars in the region and noticed that a star was being influenced by an unknown gravitational force, marking the first time a black hole had been discovered using this method.
The black hole is located approximately 160,000 light-years from Earth and is estimated to have eleven times the mass of our Sun, or 11 solar masses. The study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and according to Stefan Dreizler, a contributing member on the paper, "The vast majority can only be unveiled dynamically. When they form a system with a star, they will affect its motion in a subtle but detectable way, so we can find them with sophisticated instruments."
Sara Saracino from the Astrophysics Research Institute of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, and lead on the study, said, "We are looking at every single star in this cluster with a magnifying glass in one hand trying to find some evidence for the presence of black holes but without seeing them directly. The result shown here represents just one of the wanted criminals, but when you have found one, you are well on your way to discovering many others, in different clusters."
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