Mar 3, 2020 - Science

NASA spacecraft snaps a fortuitous shot of a black hole 30,000 light-years away

Gif: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/MIT/Harvard

Gif: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/MIT/Harvard

Sometimes the best photos are taken by accident. NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was exploring an asteroid not far from Earth when it unexpectedly caught sight of a black hole 30,000 light-years away.

What they found: OSIRIS-REx detected the black hole using an instrument designed to measure the effect solar particles are having on its target asteroid, Bennu.

  • The spacecraft was able to spot the black hole as it ate material from its companion star, causing the system to glow in X-ray light.
  • Japan's MAXI telescope first discovered the black hole system — named MAXI J0637-430 — in November 2019, with NASA's NICER also detecting the X-rays emitted by the binary not long after.
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