NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Just Detected a Possible Roaming Black Hole Out in the Milky Way

·2 min read
supermassive black hole in the galaxy
supermassive black hole in the galaxy

ClaudioVentrella / Getty

Outside of life on Earth, there's a whole universe filled with mysteries that scientists are steadily uncovering each day. Thanks to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers got one step closer to understanding the inner-workings of our galaxy. The telescope detected a moving black hole in the Milky Way for the first time ever.

These roaming black holes appear when stars at least 20 times bigger than the sun explode. This black hole appeared to be flying through space at a rapid rate, Smithsonian Magazine reports. Scientists believe this out-of-this-world object is over 5,000 light years away and moving between 67,000 and 100,000 miles per hour, according to CNN.

"Our discovery of a black hole is consistent with the theoretical calculations which suggest that there should be about 100 million black holes in our galaxy," Kailash Sahu, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, told Newsweek. "Then, assuming black holes follow [a] similar distribution as stars, one expects, statistically, that the nearest black hole may be about 80 light years away."

Related: Scientists Just Captured the First Image Ever Taken of the Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way

Scientists, however, are still trying to figure out if this black hole is actually a black hole. University of California, Berkeley and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore researchers looked into the data from the telescope and pointed out a compact object. The Space Telescope Science Institute estimated the mass at seven solar masses, meaning it would be a black hole, NASA reports. On the other hand, the University of California, Berkeley team estimated the mass between 1.6 and 4.4 solar masses, meaning it would be a neutron star.

"As much as we would like to say it is definitively a black hole, we must report all allowed solutions," Jessica Lu of the University of California, Berkeley said in the statement. "This includes both lower mass black holes and possibly even a neutron star."

Black holes and neutron stars both occur after a star explosion. (Roaming black holes will appear after a huge star explosion, though.) This discovery overall is notable, particularly because of how it was uncovered. "This is the first free-floating black hole or neutron star discovered with gravitational microlensing," Lu said in the statement. "With microlensing, we're able to probe these lonely, compact objects and weigh them. I think we have opened a new window onto these dark objects, which can't be seen any other way."