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Researchers In China Spot Massive Black Hole

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right, we're ending 2019 with a discovery that helps us understand the universe better. A research team in China found a massive black hole, 70 times the mass of the sun. The lead researcher says black holes of such mass should not even exist in our galaxy.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, so to help us understand the impact of this finding we reached out to astrophysicist Brooke Simmons at Lancaster University in Great Britain.

BROOKE SIMMONS: If this pans out, it's really exciting because it tells us that there's something we fundamentally don't understand about how black holes are forming or at least how some black holes can form.

GREENE: At 300 miles across, this one is more massive than the researchers thought was theoretically possible in the Milky Way.

SIMMONS: Now, even at that size, black holes are hard to find. In this case, the researchers looked for stuff being pulled in by the black hole's gravity.

DAVID REITZE: So they basically measure how a star that is in the orbit of the black hole is orbiting around the black hole by measuring the velocity. So that's a completely new technique.

GREENE: Professor David Reitze is director of the LIGO Laboratory. And he says one possibility is this was actually formed by two less massive black holes smashing into each other.

REITZE: Which is very cool because it's the first time something has been seen in our Milky Way galaxy that has that characteristic.

KING: And if you're worried about being sucked into the, void it's all good; the monster black hole is 15,000 light-years away.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK HOLE SUN")

SOUNDGARDEN: (Singing) Black hole sun... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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