Astronomers have discovered a huge black hole in the Milky Way, so important that it challenges existing theories of the evolution of stars, said scientists Thursday.
The LB-1, a stellar black hole located 15,000 light-years from Earth, which the journal Nature describes for the first time, has a mass 70 times greater than that of the Sun.
"Black holes of such a mass should not even exist in our galaxy, according to most current theories of stellar evolution," said Liu Jifeng, a professor at China's National Astronomical Observatory, head of the team of researchers who studied LB-1.
"We thought that very massive stars, whose chemical composition is typical of our galaxy, had to spill most of their gas into powerful stellar winds as they approach the end of their lives", and therefore not leave behind they have such a massive black hole, said Liu Jifeng.
While the Milky Way, of which our solar system is a part, contains some 100 million stellar black holes, LB-1 has a mass twice as large as scientists thought possible.
"Now, the theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining how it was formed," said Liu Jifeng in a statement.
For researcher David Reitze of the California Institute of Technology, who has not been involved in the work on LB-1, astronomers "are just beginning to understand the abundance of black holes and the mechanisms of their formation."
"In general, stellar black holes appear after supernova explosions, but according to current theories, they have a mass less than 50 to 60 times that of the sun," he told AFP.
The larger mass of LB-1 would therefore indicate that the black hole could not have been produced by a supernova.
"It means that we are dealing with a new type of black hole, created by another physical mechanism," insisted David Reitze.
The LB-1 was discovered using the Chinese LAMOST telescope (Large Field Optical Multi-Object Spectroscopic Telescope) by an international team of Chinese, American and European scientists.
Other images of the largest optical telescopes in the world - the Spanish telescope Gran Telescopio Canarias and the telescope Keck I in the United States - have confirmed the size of the LB-1, which the National Astronomical Observatory of China has described in a statement. "nothing less than fantastic"
© 2019 AFP