V1357 Cygni Cygnus X-1

Stellar classification



  • X -7095
  • Y 401
  • Z 2397
→ Sol: 7,500

Object type

  • High Mass X-ray Binary
  • Star
  • Star in Association
  • Herbig Ae/Be star
  • Black Hole
  • Ellipsoidal variable Star
  • gamma-ray source
  • Infra-Red source
  • Blue supergiant
  • Spectroscopic binary
  • Variable Star
  • X-ray source
simbad:HD 226868


Cygnus X-1 (abbreviated Cyg X-1) is a galactic X-ray source in the constellation Cygnus, and the first such source widely accepted to be a black hole. It was discovered in 1964 during a rocket flight and is one of the strongest X-ray sources seen from Earth, producing a peak X-ray flux density of 2.3×10−23 Wm−2 Hz−1 (2.3×103 Jansky). It remains among the most studied astronomical objects in its class. The compact object is now estimated to have a mass about 14.8 times the mass of the Sun and has been shown to be too small to be any known kind of normal star, or other likely object besides a black hole. If so, the radius of its event horizon is about 44 km.

Cygnus X-1 belongs to a high-mass X-ray binary system, located about 6,070 light years from the Sun, that includes a blue supergiant variable star designated HDE 226868 which it orbits at about 0.2 AU, or 20% of the distance from the Earth to the Sun. A stellar wind from the star provides material for an accretion disk around the X-ray source. Matter in the inner disk is heated to millions of degrees, generating the observed X-rays. A pair of jets, arranged perpendicular to the disk, are carrying part of the energy of the infalling material away into interstellar space.

This system may belong to a stellar association called Cygnus OB3, which would mean that Cygnus X-1 is about five million years old and formed from a progenitor star that had more than 40 solar masses. The majority of the star's mass was shed, most likely as a stellar wind. If this star had then exploded as a supernova, the resulting force would most likely have ejected the remnant from the system. Hence the star may have instead collapsed directly into a black hole.

Cygnus X-1 was the subject of a friendly scientific wager between physicists Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne in 1975, with Hawking betting that it was not a black hole. He conceded the bet in 1990 after observational data had strengthened the case that there was indeed a black hole in the system. This hypothesis has not been confirmed due to a lack of direct observation but has generally been accepted from indirect evidence.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cygnus X-1", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.