NASA may have just uncovered the youngest black hole in Earth's galaxy.
The young black hole, located within a supernova remnant, was created by a rare supernova explosion of a massive star, according to a written statement from NASA. The administration's Chandra X-ray Observatory captured images of the so-called remnant W49B, located 26,000 light-years away.
The remnant is estimated to be about 1,000 years old. In comparison, CNET notes, the age of an average black hole in the Milky Way ranges between 17,000 and 21,000 years old.
"W49B is the first of its kind to be discovered in the galaxy," Laura Lopez, who led the Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, said in a written statement. "It appears its parent star ended its life in a way that most others don't."
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Photo credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/L.Lopez et al; Infrared: Palomar; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA
While the space agency is still working to confirm the study's claim, researchers believe the lack of evidence of a neutron star suggests a black hole formed instead.
As Forbes explains:
Most supernovas result in the formation of a neutron star – a small, incredibly dense body comprised almost entirely of neutrons. Neutron stars have a distinctive X-ray characteristic, which the research team looked for. Upon examination of data from the Chandra telescope, however, researchers found no sign of one. This indicates that the remnant is instead a black hole.
The results of the team's research will be published in the Feb. 17 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
Though the mass within remnant W49B may be the youngest black hole in the Milky Way, it's hardly the youngest in the universe. That title may belong to the black hole created in galaxy M100 during a 1979 supernova explosion.
In 2010, NASA researchers announced that they found evidence of the youngest black hole ever seen, pinpointing the exact date of the black hole's birth.