Supermassive black hole discovered near heart of the Milky Way

05 September 2017, 06:55 | Myrtle Hill

Black-hole haven artist's impression of the Milky Way

Artist's impression of the Milky Way

With an estimated mass of around 100,000 times that of our sun, they believe it could be a special type of black hole that has always been hypothesized but never officially identified. "Thus we are increasing the number of them by the new technique".

Those types of black holes, known as intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) are thought to be the missing link in the evolution of cosmic objects and could help explain how supermassive black holes are formed.

Black holes are hard to spot because they don't emit any light of their own. It is because of this trait that black holes are only revealed through special equipment and by observing the behavior of nearby space bodies. While scientists have data supporting the existence of supermassive and small black holes, Science reports they lacked evidence of the mid-sized variety. "We think some of those black holes are the seeds from which the much larger supermassive black holes grow to at least a million times more massive".

But such black holes had not previously been reliably detected and their existence has been fiercely debated among the astronomical community.

Finding an IMBH would open up a new avenue of research in understanding supermassive black holes-black holes that can be billions of times the mass of the sun that sit at the center of most massive galaxies, including the Milky Way. Recently we discovered a peculiar molecular cloud near the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. The suspicion that there might be a black hole in the gas cloud was confirmed further by radio waves detected coming from the cloud.

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The leading theory is that they develop when IMBHs - which are created when multiple stars in young clusters collide - merge with others to form supermassive variants.

Prof Oka, of Keio University in Japan said it is widely accepted black holes with masses greater than a million solar masses lurk at the centres of massive galaxies, but their origins remain unknown.

Prof Oka said it suggests 'this massive object is an inactive IMBH which is not now accreting matter'.

"Theoretical studies have predicted that 100 million to one billion black holes should exist in the Milky Way, although only 60 or so have been identified through observations so far", said the authors. Simulations of the gas movements suggested it harbored a black hole of 100,000 solar masses. The term itself did not come into use until 1967, and it was just 46 years ago that the first one was identified. While the existence of such a black hole in our galaxy has nearly been settled, not the same can be said for other types of black holes.

They conclude their paper by saying that such a discovery would make a considerable contribution to the progress of modern physics.



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