For the first time, scientists measured the size of a black hole using Hubble Space Telescope images of the warping effect it has on starlight. It took six years of observations. They can now use the breakthrough to locate and analyze more of the estimated 100 million black holes roaming the Milky Way Galaxy.
In related news I’m only just now learning, black holes roam. If the supernova that creates a black hole is asymmetrical, the explosion can send it careening off into space. This black hole is about 5,000 light years away from Earth and traveling at 100,000 miles per hour. If that’s not enough to make you add black holes to your list of anxieties, NASA suggests others could be as close as only 80 light years away. We saw the news on CNN.
Someone on the NASA social media team was feeling macabre when writing the YouTube description for the below video that explains the research. “Our Milky Way galaxy is haunted. The vast gulf of space between the stars is plied by the dead, burned-out and crushed remnants of once glorious stars. These black holes cannot be directly seen because their intense gravity swallows light. Like legendary wandering ghosts, their presence can only be deduced by seeing how they affect the environment around them.”
I wouldn’t let the terror of falling into a black hole haunt you. It’s much more likely that the sun will vaporize the Earth. In fact, that’s definitely going to happen at some point. In a few billion years. But don’t worry, life will be long gone by then due to a lack of oxygen. Feel better?
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.