Popular Science

Astronomy's next big discovery is probably hiding in piles of old data

The ability to gather more information means we'll spend more time sifting through it.
black hole eating a star

An artist’s illustration of a black hole “eating” a star.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earlier this year, astronomers stumbled upon a fascinating finding: Thousands of black holes likely exist near the center of our galaxy.

The X-ray images that enabled this discovery weren’t from some state-of-the-art new telescope. Nor were they even recently taken—some of the data was collected nearly 20 years ago.

No, the researchers discovered the black holes by digging through old, long-archived data.

Discoveries like this will only become more common, as the era of “big data” changes how science is done. are gathering an exponentially greater amount of data every day—so much that it will

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