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So, about that 'too massive' black hole… yeah, not so much.

11 Dec 2019, 14:00 UTC
So, about that 'too massive' black hole… yeah, not so much.
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Last week, I wrote about what looked like a pretty important astronomical discovery: A black hole with a mass of 70 times that of the Sun.

This story was a big deal because we don’t know of any easy way to get a black hole with a mass like that. This is what’s called a stellar mass black hole, one with up to a few dozen times the mass of the Sun most likely formed when a massive star goes supernova. While the outer layers of the star explode outward, the core of the star collapses, becoming a black hole.

According to pretty much everything we know, the upper limit to a black hole like that is very roughly 30 times the Sun’s mass. That makes this one way over the limit.

The authors of the paper proposed a couple of ideas to explain this, which I’ll get to in a second. But there’s another possibility: They were, simply if bluntly put, wrong.

That looks like it’s the case. Three (3!) papers were just posted to the preprint archive challenging the 70-solar-mass claim. Two show that the scientists didn’t analyze their data properly, and a third uses theoretical models of ...

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