Gaia Mission Discovers Record-Breaking Black Hole in Milky Way

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission has uncovered the largest stellar-origin black hole ever discovered in the Milky Way galaxy. Dubbed Gaia BH3 the black hole boasts a mass 33 times that of the sun surpassing the previous record-holder Cygnus X-1.

Located just 1,926 light-years from Earth in the constellation Aquila Gaia BH3 is part of a binary star system orbiting a “subgiant” star about five times the size of our sun. The black hole is classified as “dormant” as it does not appear to be actively attracting nearby stars or dust making it much more difficult to detect through conventional astronomical methods.

George Seabroke a scientist at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory compared the discovery to a scene from the film ‘The Matrix’ where the protagonist begins to see the hidden reality around him. “Finding Gaia BH3 is like the moment in the film ‘The Matrix’ where Neo starts to ‘see’ the matrix. In our case, ‘the matrix’ is our galaxy’s population of dormant stellar black holes, which were hidden from us before Gaia detected them,” Seabroke said.

The discovery was made possible by Gaia’s unprecedented precision in detecting previously unobservable movements by stars in the Milky Way. The mission aims to create a comprehensive model of over a billion stars in our galaxy tracking their motions luminosity and composition.

Lead researcher Pasquale Panuzzo from the Observatoire de Paris expressed his surprise at the discovery stating “No one was expecting to find a high-mass black hole lurking nearby, undetected so far. This is the kind of discovery you make once in your research life.”

The chemical composition of the companion star which mirrors that of old metal-poor stars in the galaxy supports theories that more massive black holes can form from metal-poor stars. The findings from Gaia BH3 have the potential to lead to groundbreaking discoveries in various fields of astronomy and could refine approaches to studying other celestial phenomena.