Supermassive Black Hole Discovered Near Heart of the Milky Way


Astronomers believe that they have discovered an enormous new black hole thought to be almost 100,000 more massive than the sun near the center of the Milky Way, and it may be the first ever actual detection of a long-hypothesized-but-never-proven type of space-time phenomena. This unexpected find could offer clues as to how SMBHs form, which is something that astronomers have been puzzling over for some time.

The existence of a new Milky Way black hole was first hinted at a year ago by the researchers in a separate study.

"This is the first detection of an intermediate-mass black hole candidate in the Milky Way galaxy", said the study's leader, Tomoharu Oka from Keio University, Japan.

But if there really is a large (but not supermassive) black hole hiding in our galaxy, it must have come from somewhere.

The radio telescope's high sensitivity and resolution enabled them to observe the cloud 195 light years from the Milky Way's centre spot. Gases in this cloud, which include carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, were found to move at different speeds.

As Oka and colleagues report today in Nature Astronomy, when they studied CO-0.40-0.22 with ALMA they spotted a particularly dense clump of gas near the center of the cloud that again showed a distribution of velocities suggestive of a massive nearby object, again supported by simulations of the gas movements.

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"Based on the careful analysis of gas kinematics, we concluded that a compact object with a mass of about 105M⊙ is lurking in this cloud", the researchers wrote in their study, which was published online on September 4. The inset box shows X-ray flares from the region close to Sgr A*. The most exciting thing is the likelihood that intermediate mass black holes are real. "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", the scientists wrote.

The IMBH is the second-largest black hole discovered in the Milky Way next to Sagittarius A*, which is 400 million times the size of our sun. In time, Oka said, the object will be drawn towards Sagittarius A* and sink into it, making the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way even more massive.

Finding an IMBH (Intermediate Mass black hole) shall now become one of the key researches to be made by scientists across the world. This has led to an intense search, which until now, has come up mostly empty-mid-size black holes are exceedingly hard to spot. As such, the discovery of an IMBH would constitute the first piece of evidence for this hypothesis.

Black holes are formed by the death of massive stars.

"That growth should happen in part by mergers with other black holes and in part by accretion of material from the part of the galaxy that surrounds the black hole", added Simmons, who was not involved in the new study. Its odd movement signaled towards a huge "compact object" at the centre, which scientists suspect of being a black hole. That would make the object an intermediate-mass black hole. The object appears to be buried in a gas cloud that's keeping it obscured. The gravitational waves alone are sure to be impressive!