According to a study carried out at NASA‘s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the youngest black hole in the Milky Way galaxy may be a mere 1,000 years old as seen from Earth and 26,000 light years away.
The relatively young black hole is thought to have been formed due to a very unusual explosion that had occurred when a massive star collapsed. The subsequent supernova remnant in this case is called W49B, and it is believed to be the first of its kind we have discovered in our galaxy.
A supernova explosion occurs when a star uses up the last of its fuel it collapses in on itself. Material is blown evenly in all directions (symmetrical), and what remains afterwards in a lot of cases is a “dense, spinning core” we refer to as a neutron star.
In the case of W49B that didn’t happen. The supernova explosion saw the star’s material ejected much more quickly at the poles than the equator, leaving a more elliptical remnant behind. The X-ray data gathered by Chandra also suggests there is no neutron star activity, which points to a black hole having been formed instead.
The study at the Chandra X-ray Observatory was led by Laura Lopez of MIT. The subsequent paper was written by Daniel Castro, also from MIT, and Sarah Pearson from the University of Copenhagen. The data they collected was done so over the course of three days, and they are referring to it as circumstantial evidence of the black hole’s existence for the time being. However, there is hope that with further investigation they will be able to confirm their findings and be in a position to study a supernova that managed to create one for the first time.