Supermassive Black Hole Discovered In The Milky Way

Delia Watkins
September 7, 2017

The similarities could indicate the existence of a mid-sized black hole, the researchers say.

Black holes appear in the Universe too early for there to have been enough time for any small black holes to have fed on enough material to become supermassive.

Located near the clump of gas was a source of radio waves resembling those of Sagittarius A, the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, Science reports.

So-called intermediate-mass black holes fill a gap in astronomer's knowledge of the most massive objects in the universe.

Brooke Simmons at the University of California in San Diego, who was not involved in the study, described the research as "careful detective work".

In 2016, Oka and colleagues from Keio University reported discovering a peculiar cloud of molecular gas, dubbed CO-0.40-0.22, near the center of the Milky Way. The researchers suspected a massive object was hiding inside, providing the gravitational kick for the variable and speedy gas flows.

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The team originally spotted the gas cloud using the Nobeyama radio telescope in Japan-but to learn more about what they had found required something bigger, so they ventured to Chile, where they gained access to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

"The most exciting thing is the likelihood that intermediate mass black holes are real", Schawinski says. The cause of that, according to computer models, was a black hole no more than 1.4 trillion km across. "If there's one, maybe there are others?" The origins of the supermassive black holes are still unknown, but it is general belief these types of black holes are usually found at the center of massive galaxies.

The find could lead to the resolution of major mysteries regarding black holes by giving scientists a chance to examine how they form. This explosion, which can outshine an entire galaxy of stars for a short period of time, leaves behind the small, heavy core of a star. This is the first time a middle, bigger black hole is thought to be discovered.

The concept of Black holes was firstly predicted by Albert Einstein.

Theoretical studies predict at least 100 million of these small black holes should exist in the Milky Way, however only about 60 have been found. Why they are so incredibly massive isn't well understood, but astronomers think they may form out of the collapse of huge clouds of gas during the early stages of the formation of a galaxy. There are some 50 dwarf galaxies in the vicinity of the Milky Way and if CO-0.40-0.22* is confirmed as a black hole, this would support the idea that galaxies grow through such cannibalism. The team also has its eyes on several other compact molecular clouds that could harbor black holes.

"One possible scenario is IMBHs - which are formed by the runaway coalescence of stars in young compact star clusters - merge at the centre of a galaxy to form a supermassive black hole, " said Prof Oka. In fact, since CO-0.40-0.22 is so close to the black hole at the center of our galaxy, it very likely could be gobbled up by Sagittarius A*. Instead, the scientists suggest it is the former core of a dwarf galaxy that has been subsumed into the Milky Way, stripped of its stars, and is destined to one day fall into Sgr A*.

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