Astronomers have discovered the first known stellar-mass black hole roaming solo through space.
Situated far out in the Milky Way galaxy around 5,150 light years away from Earth, the rogue black hole is the first of its kind ever identified.
Most of the black holes that have been discovered so far have been situated in binary star systems, mainly because their interactions with their partners had made them easier to detect.
While physicists had long expected stellar-mass black holes to also exist in isolation, detecting one against the empty blackness of space had proven a challenge.
Now though, with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope and a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, it has finally been possible to detect one of these objects directly.
“We now know that isolated black holes exist,” said study lead author Kailash Sahu of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
“And they have masses similar to the black holes found in binaries.
“And there must be lots of them out there.”
The newly discovered black hole is believed to be approximately 7.1 times the mass of the Sun.
“It took two years of planning followed by six years of observing with Hubble, but it was very satisfying to see the incredible results,” said Sahu.
“It was immediately clear as daylight that it\’s a black hole, there was nothing else that could cause the deflections we measured.”