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Recently discovered black hole is closest one to Earth ever found, among the smallest

Scientists dub it "the Unicorn."

Updated: April 24, 2021 - 8:43pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Scientists this week announced the significant discovery of a relatively small black hole that is the closest one yet discovered to our planet.

The black hole, dubbed "the Unicorn" by its explorers, is "about three times the mass of our sun" and just 1,500 light-years away from our planet, Ohio State University said in a press release announcing the finding. 

The astronomical object "appears to be a companion to a red giant star, meaning that the two are connected by gravity," the university said. Due to the undetectability of black holes directly, scientists determined the black hole’s location by observing the behavior of the red star itself.

"When you look in a different way, which is what we’re doing, you find different things," Ohio State University astronomy professor Kris Stanek said in the release.

"[Lead author] Tharindu [Jayasingnhe] looked at this thing that so many other people had looked at," he continued, "and instead of dismissing the possibility that it could be a black hole, he said, ‘Well, what if it could be a black hole?’"

Scientists expect to find more of these intermediate "mass-gap" black holes with more study in the near future.