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This'll Cheer You Up: Science Just Discovered a Black Hole 'Almost on Our Doorstep'

Loo Source - Astronomers have discovered a black hole in one of the constellations, the suitably named Telescopium. At just 1,000 light-years away, the black hole is closer to our solar system than any other that astronomers have found to date. A thousand light-years might sound distant to us, but in cosmic proportions, it’s very close.

“On the scale of the Milky Way, it’s in our backyard,” Thomas Rivinius, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile who led the new research, told me. “Almost on our doorstep.”

For comparison, consider some of the best-known black holes in astronomy, the ones usually intriguing enough to make headlines. The black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is more than 25,000 light-years away, and the black hole that astronomers captured in unprecedented detail last year lies 55 million light-years away, in another galaxy altogether. This one, by contrast, is so close that, on a clear night in the southern hemisphere, far from light pollution, the pair of stars that orbit the black hole can be seen with the naked eye. 

For starters, if you need to be brought up to speed on black holes or have it explained to you why this is a big deal, I have no sympathy for you. You literally cannot watch a science show about the cosmos without Neal Degrasse-Tyson or Michio Kaku going over the same basic things they always say about gravitational pull and light can't escape and blah blah blah. It's like they're the only things in the universe worth talking about. If I caught Stephen Hawking repeating himself about them one more time, I was ready to unplug his speaker. (Too soon? Probably too soon.) But if you need to be schooled for the purpose of this post, here you go:

You can argue, like the rest of this article goes on to state, that 1,000 light-years is a long ways away and it's not really a threat to us. But I'm calling bullshit on that. Astronomers and physicists admit they have no idea what goes on in these things. It's all theoretical because the otherwise immutable laws of ... well, of everything ... no longer apply once you get near one. And on a cosmic scale, 1,000 light-years is very much near one. As the man said, almost on our doorstep. It's the most destructive object ever to exist in the universe. If the most destructive dog ever to exist in your neighborhood was off its leash and almost on your doorstep, I scarcely doubt you'd be saying it's not worth worrying about. 

These things can have millions of stars bigger than ours crushed inside them into a singularity the size of an atom. Get pulled into the event horizon of one of these, and to the outside reality, it'll look like you've been disintegrated into nothingness. But from your perspective, time will slow down and you'll just be orbiting the outer edge forever. Or you'll be Mathew McConaughy, floating around outside your daughter's bedroom when she was little. Or something. I liked "Inception" [EDIT: “Interstellar.” How could the 33% of my brain reserved for Christoper Nolan references fail me this way?]  but I can't pretend to understand it. 

But anyway, sooner or later it'll be our fate to get swallowed up into this massive, incomprehensibly powerful space butthole. Our entire solar system, crushed like a lump of charcoal into a sub-atomic zircon or sucked up into the universe's lower intestine to ride out eternity. And no one knows a thing other than there'll be no White House Black Hole Task Force to tell us how to handle it. Space Force won't be setting up a big planetary deflector shield to stop it. It'll just be goodbye, us. It hasn't been good knowing you. And if it happens in 2020, it won't crack the Top 10 worst things to happen. In fact, it'd just put us out of our misery.