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New look at the first black hole identified shows it is greater than anticipated

A new examination has uncovered new insights regarding the first black hole at any point distinguished – which was seen in 1964 and became the subject of a friendly bet between famous researchers – including that it is greater than previously known.

Scientists said on Thursday that novel perceptions of the Cygnus X-1 black hole, orbiting in a stellar marriage with a huge and glowing star, showed it is 21 times our sun’s mass, about 50% more monstrous than recently believed.

While it is as yet one of the nearest known black holes, they discovered it is to some degree farther away than previously calculated, at 7,200 light-years – the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) – from Earth.

Black holes are amazingly dense, with gravitational pulls so ferocious not light escapes. A few – the “supermassive” black holes – are huge, similar to the one at our Milky Way galaxy’s center 4 million times the sun’s mass. More modest “stellar-mass” black holes have the mass of a single star.

Cygnus X-1 is the Milky Way’s biggest known stellar-mass black hole and among the strongest X-ray sources seen from Earth, said astronomer James Miller-Jones of Curtin University and the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, who led the study published in the journal Science.

This black hole twists so quickly, almost light speed, that it moves toward the greatest rate imagined under physicist Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Miller-Jones added.

It devours material blowing from the surface of the companion star it tightly orbits, a “blue supergiant” around 40 times our sun’s mass. It began its reality 4 million to 5 million years back as a star up to 75 times the sun’s mass and collapsed into a black hole two or three huge numbers years prior.

The research included information from the Very Long Baseline Array radio telescope containing 10 U.S. observation stations.

After Cygnus X-1 was first selected as a black hole, a bet was made between physicists Stephen Hawking, who wager against it being one, and Kip Thorne, who wager it was. Hawking eventually conceded, owing Thorne a Penthouse magazine subscription.

“Indeed, I did not have any wagers riding on these findings,” Miller-Jones said.