You may have remembered this NASA tweet from September 2020:
HR 6819 is the closest black hole we’ve detected so far, and it lies about 1,000 light-years away. ⚫️ Statistics say there should be one as close as 65 light-years, though we may never detect it unless it lights up!
The original European Space Agency (ESA) press release noted that an invisible object has two companion stars, one of which orbits the unseen object every 40 days. The data for this finding used the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Well, you can relax. The ESA announced last week that HR 6819 is not a black hole based on new data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI):
Our best interpretation so far is that we caught this binary system in a moment shortly after one of the stars had sucked the atmosphere off its companion star. This is a common phenomenon in close binary systems, sometimes referred to as “stellar vampirism” in the press,” explains Bodensteiner, now a fellow at ESO in Germany and an author on the new study. “While the donor star was stripped of some of its material, the recipient star began to spin more rapidly.
So, mystery solved. Now we need to talk about local vampires!