A team of researchers usually assembled to debunk the purported findings of interstellar black holes recently came across a surprising discovery — they claim to have found the first black hole discovered outside of the Milky Way Galaxy. According to a new study published Monday, Tomer Shenar and a team of scientists used data captured at the European Southern Observatory to make the discovery.
"For the first time, our team got together to report on a black hole discovery, instead of rejecting one," Shenar said in a statement from the ESO. "We identified a 'needle in the haystack.'"
While other dormant black holes have been proposed by other scientists, this study claims the recently-discovered black hole (which resides in the Large Magellanic Cloud), is the first "unambiguously-detected" black hole outside of our galaxy.
Named VFTS 243, researchers searched approximately 1,000 starts within the Tarantula Nebula of the cosmic cloud, hoping to spot block holes nearby.
"The star that formed the black hole in VFTS 243 appears to have collapsed entirely, with no sign of a previous explosion," continued Shenar. "Evidence for this 'direct-collapse' scenario has been emerging recently, but our study arguably provides one of the most direct indications. This has enormous implications for the origin of black-hole mergers in the cosmos."
In total, it took six years worth of observations to come to the conclusion, using the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT).
"When Tomer asked me to double check his findings, I had my doubts. But I could not find a plausible explanation for the data that did not involve a black hole," study co-author Kareem El-Badry added before admitting the finds from his team should be open to criticism from other studies and researchers. "Of course I expect others in the field to pore over our analysis carefully, and to try to cook up alternative models. It's a very exciting project to be involved in."