The Milky Way’s Most Massive Stellar Black Hole is Only 2,000 Light Years Away

This image shows the locations of the first three black holes discovered by ESA's Gaia mission in the Milky Way. Gaia Black Hole 1 (BH1) is located just 1560 light-years away from us in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus; Gaia BH2 is 3800 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus; Gaia BH3 is in the constellation Aquila, at a distance of 1926 light-years from Earth. In galactic terms, these black holes reside in our cosmic backyard. Image Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC. Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Astronomers have found the largest stellar mass black hole in the Milky Way so far. At 33 solar masses, it dwarfs the previous record-holder, Cygnus X-1, which has only 21 solar masses. Most stellar mass black holes have about 10 solar masses, making the new one—Gaia BH3—a true giant.

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Gaia Finds Ancient Streams of Stars That Formed the Milky Way

ESA’s Gaia space telescope discovered two star streams that helped form the infant Milky Way. Both are so ancient that they likely formed before even the oldest parts of our present-day galaxy’s spiral arms and disc. This image shows the location and distribution of Shakti (yellow) and Shiva (blue) stars throughout the Milky Way. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC/K. Malhan.

Using ESA’s Gaia spacecraft, astronomers have tracked down two streams of stars that likely formed the foundation of the Milky Way. Named “Shakti and Shiva,” the two streams contain about 10 million stars, all of which are 12 to 13 billion years old and likely came together even before the spiral arms and disk were formed. These star streams are all moving in roughly similar orbits and have similar compositions. Astronomers think they were probably separate galaxies that merged into the Milky Way shortly after the Big Bang.,

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