On Tuesday, Astronomers declared they had found the youngest black hole ever found in Earth's cosmic neighborhood, a discovery offering a rare chance to explore one of the strangest and mightiest forces in the Universe.

The black hole is supposed to be a remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100, some 50 million light years from Earth, which was spotted by an amateur skygazer in 1979.

The supernova itself was a mega-star some 20 times greater than the Sun that collapsed upon it before creating a black hole (a gravitational force so strong that not even light can escape). The finding will give scientists a grandstand view of how a black hole develops from infancy, NASA said.

It could also help to find out how huge stars explode, which ones give birth to neutron stars or black holes, and how many black holes there may be in our galaxy and elsewhere.

SN 1979C, though, is different, as it is closer to Earth and belongs to a class of supernova that is unlike to be associated with a gamma-ray burst. If so, that will back a common theory about how most black holes are formed. Discovering it was an extraordinary stroke of luck, as usually decades of X-ray observations would be needed to make the confirmation.

"If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed," said lead researcher Daniel Patnaude, from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Massachusetts.


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