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NGC 6397 seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

A cluster of stars 7,800 light-years away has a group of relatively small black holes hiding in its center.

The big picture: By learning more about this unexpected arrangement of stars and black holes, scientists might be able to piece together a better understanding of the complexities around how black holes behave.

The intrigue: Scientists were initially interested in the globular cluster of stars — named NGC 6397 — because they thought an elusive type of black hole known as an intermediate-mass black hole might be hidden within it.

  • After studying data from the Hubble Space Telescope, however, the researchers behind the new study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics found that instead of one relatively large black hole at its center, NGC 6397 was actually hiding many smaller ones.
  • Those black holes likely arose from the deaths of massive stars and migrated toward the center of the globular cluster because of their immense gravity, influencing other stars as well.
  • Black holes within globular clusters could be a source of ripples in space and time called gravitational waves if they collide with one another.

Go deeper

Updated 27 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.