Milky Way Black Hole Taking Huge Bite Out of Our Galaxy

Milky Way Black Hole Taking Huge Bite Out of Our Galaxy

Milky Way Black Hole Taking Huge Bite Out of Our Galaxy

There is a massive black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy, hiding inside a giant cloud of molecular gas, scientists believe. Hence, spotting them in the vast universe beyond planet Earth is a very hard task. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array provided high-quality images of the cloud. But researchers are divided over whether these are really midsized black holes, shining bright as they imbibe lots of surrounding gas, or smaller ones ingesting at a superfast rate.

If the discovery is confirmed, the invisible behemoth will rank as the second largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way after the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* that is anchored at the very centre of the galaxy. They also don't have the extreme conditions required to become a supermassive black hole.

"So far, only about 60 of them have been detected as X-ray binaries".

One of the prominent theories about how supermassive black holes form is through IMBHs merging at the center of galaxies, acting as seeds to create their larger counterparts.

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

The scientists' suspicion that a black hole lay in the midst of the gas cloud received a boost when further observations picked up radio waves indicative of a black hole coming from the centre of the cloud, said Tomoharu Oka, an astronomer at Keio University in Tokyo.

The centre of the Milky Way 27 000 light-years away from Earth
The centre of the Milky Way 27 000 light-years away from Earth Credit AFP Getty Images

But how did it form and how did it get there? 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. Some believe midsized black holes are born in the cores of dense star clusters, of which there are about 150 in the Milky Way, but Oka's team says CO-0.40-0.22* is way too big to have arisen that way.

Each one is about half a per cent of the host galaxy's size - which indicates they are the driving force behind their evolution. "[But] the origins of such supermassive black holes remain unknown".

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.

Astrophysicists have suspected an intermediate class of black hole might exist - with masses between a hundred and several hundred thousand times that of the Sun.

Astronomer of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Kevin Schawinski, told Science "we know very little about how black holes form but if Oka's team or others are able to find a population of such objects, we can put our ideas to the test".

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