Fast-Flying Black Hole Yields Clues to Supernova Origin

by Space Telescope Science Institute

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A nearby black hole is hurtling like a cannonball through the disk of our galaxy. The detection of this speed demon is the best evidence yet, some astronomers say, that stellar-mass black holes — those that are several times as massive as the Earth's Sun — are created when a dying, massive star explodes in a violent supernova. The stellar-mass black hole, called GRO J1655-40, is streaking across space at a rate of 250,000 miles per hour, which is four times faster than the average velocity of the stars in that galactic neighborhood. At that speed, the black hole may have been hurled through space by a supernova blast. Credit: ESA, NASA, and Felix Mirabel (French Atomic Energy Commission and Institute for Astronomy and Space Physics/ Conicet of Argentina)