A Huge Black Hole Found Near the Center of the Milky Way

Artist's impression of molecular cloud swirling around an intermediate mass black hole

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.

A near-infrared image of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy as seen with Hubble Space Telescope/NICMOS. The reason for this interest has to do with the fact that gases in this cloud - which include hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide - move at vastly different speeds, which is something unusual for a cloud of interstellar gases. Some models suggest that intermediate-mass black holes can form in dense star clusters.

The scientists' suspicions that a black hole was responsible became more likely when further observations picked up radio waves indicative of a black hole coming from the centre of the cloud. Supernovae create black holes up to several times the mass of the Sun, and there's a prospect of slightly larger black holes being formed by a non-explosive mechanism. That's a little like a city that's home to only children and the elderly, with no one in between.

The find could lead to the resolution of major mysteries regarding black holes by giving scientists a chance to examine how they form.

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The estimated mass of the potential black hole is about 100,000 times than that of the sun.

According to the General Relativity Theory, prescribed by Albert Einstein in 1915, the formation of black holes takes place from the violent collision of two dying stars. "It's the most promising evidence so far" for an intermediate mass black hole, says astronomer Kevin Schawinski of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who was not involved in the study.

This represents something of a first for astronomers, since the vast majority of black holes discovered to date have been either small or massive. If this cloud-dwelling black hole discovered by the Japanese astronomers is confirmed at 100,000 solar masses, it will be the first "missing link" black hole the world has ever seen. Eventually, Oka explained to The Guardian, the object will sink toward Sagittarius A*, closer and closer, until it's swallowed up, increasing the mass of Sagittarius A* as it joins it at the heart of our galaxy. If these are plentiful, as astronomers theorize, they could merge at the center of a galaxy to form a supermassive black hole.

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.

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Theories predict, the scientists note in their paper, that the Milky Way alone should contain between 100 million and one billion black holes, but to date only 60 have been found. "Some of them seem very large".

"Based on the careful analysis of gas kinematics, we concluded that a compact object with a mass of about [100,000] solar masses is lurking in this cloud", Oka and his team wrote.

Supermassive black holes have masses ranging from millions to billions of solar masses.

Galaxies like the Milky Way are thought to have been formed from the merger of multiple dwarf galaxies, and the remains of some continue to orbit our galaxy.

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