NASA's Newly Launched Telescope Discovers Closest Black Hole to Earth

** NASA has hit a high note with the recent launch of the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), an X-ray telescope mounted on the International Space Station (ISS). Scientists have announced the discovery of the closest black hole to the Earth, using data from NICER.**

This is a remarkable breakthrough for several reasons, as astronomers have previously relied on electromagnetic waves and intense radiation to study distant celestial bodies, often using space-based technologies to observe infrared and optical light. With the new finding, which is in close proximity to our own solar system, scientists can now study a black hole's effects on the environment around it.

The black hole, designated MAXI J1659-152, is a relatively small stellar-mass black hole, with a mass roughly ten times that of the Sun. It's located in the constellation Leo, approximately 1,600 light-years away from Earth. Despite its distance, it is three times closer to us than the previous record holder.

What's more, MAXI J1659-152 is obitting a nearby star and feeding off of its gas and other materials. As this matter is sucked into the black hole, it forms a disk around it called an accretion disk. This process releases enormous energy, resulting in the black hole emitting high levels of X-rays.

** How NICER contributed to the discovery **NICER instrument specialized in measuring X-rays, providing scientists with higher resolution and larger coverage of the energy spectrum than ever before. This allowed them to observe the black hole with unprecedented accuracy.

By analyzing the spectrum of X-rays coming from MAXI J1659-152, astronomers were able to infer the black hole's mass, estimating it to be around 10 times the mass of the Sun.

** The significance **Not only is this discovery groundbreaking for peering into the mysterious world of black holes, but it also provides a unique opportunity to study how accretion disks form and evolve. This process is believed to be the central mechanism for the evolution of black holes and the formation of larger galaxies.

** What's next? **The researchers plan to continue studying MAXI J1659-152 and its accretion disk to gain a deeper understanding of how black holes consume matter and release powerful energy.

This discovery lays the foundation for future explorations of similar objects and opens up exciting prospects for similar studies with larger telescopes, that are currently under development, paving the way for an unprecedented exploration of the cosmos.

With NICER's capabilities, scientists can delve even further into the previously unexplored black hole ecosystem, sparking new understandings of accretion disks, and their influence on the formation and evolution of galaxies.

This is just one of many discoveries that NICER has made possible, and NASA is eager to see what other secrets of the universe this instrument may reveal.

Read more