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HubbleSite Lone Black Holes Discovered Adrift in the Galaxy

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Space Telescope Science

Astronomers using the Hubble telescope and ground-based observatories have discovered the first examples of isolated, stellar-mass black holes adrift among the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. They detected two of these lonely, invisible objects indirectly by measuring how their extreme gravity bends the light of a more distant star behind them. All previously known "stellar" black holes have been found orbiting normal stars. Astronomers determined the presence of those compact powerhouses by examining their effect on their companion star. These new results suggest that black holes are common and that many massive but normal stars may end their lives as black holes instead of neutron stars, the crushed cores of massive stars that end their lives in supernova explosions. The findings also suggest that stellar-mass black holes do not require some sort of interaction in a double-star system to form but may be produced in the collapse of isolated, massive stars, as has long been proposed by stellar theorists.

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