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A ghostly black hole may have been discovered by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley

a University of California at Berkeley A research team led by graduate student Casey Lamm and associate professor of astronomy Jessica Lowe may have discovered the first “floating at sea” black hole, science daily the name of the thing.

According to the director, they estimated that this invisible object, OB110462, is between 1.6 and 4.4 times the mass of the Sun and 2,280 to 6,260 light-years away. Currently, researchers say it could also be a neutron star, or a “city-sized” star. You are born when big stars collapse and die† Whether it is a black hole or a neutron star, Science Daily reports that the mysterious object is the first “stellar ghost” discovered in space without a companion star.

“This is the first floating black hole or neutron star to be detected using microgravitational lenses,” Lu told the outlet. Lu has been searching for free-floating black holes since 2008 and has been observing OB110462 since 2020. “Using a fine lens, we can examine and weigh these small, compact objects. I think we’ve opened a new window on these dark objects that can’t be seen any other way.” While black holes are usually invisible, researchers can use a microgravity lens to see how light from distant stars distorts and distorts with their strong gravitational field.

to me Department of Astronomy at the University of California, BerkeleyBlack holes are “one of the most unusual phenomena in astrophysics.” Their website says there are an estimated 100 million stellar black holes in the Milky Way, and Science Daily reports that the UC Berkeley team now estimates there are 200 million black holes. The outlet says that determining the total number will help astronomers better understand how stars die — and perhaps shed more light on the evolution of our galaxy.

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For now, Lu’s team says it’s not possible to determine whether OB110462 is a black hole or a neutron star, but they hope to collect more data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and do a more detailed analysis at a later time.

“As much as we’d like to say it’s definitely a black hole, we need to report all acceptable solutions,” Lu told Science Daily. This includes both low-mass black holes and possibly even a neutron star.