07 September, 2017
Astronomers in Japan found the possible black hole in our own Milky Way galaxy, a long-theorized object which is bigger than the small black holes formed from a single star, but still much smaller than giant black holes such as the one at the center of the Milky Way. And when it's actively feeding on matter, it should be very bright. And right next to the clump was a faint source of radio waves. As such, the discovery of an IMBH would constitute the first piece of evidence for this hypothesis. This has led to an intense search, which until now, has come up mostly empty-mid-size black holes are exceedingly hard to spot.
Further studies showed that, near the center of the cloud, a clump of gas appeared to be drawn by gravitational forces. Unfortunately, as there is little evidence scientists have suggested those aren't IMBHs but smaller back holes ingesting at a fast rate. However, until now no definitive evidence has existed for intermediate-mass black holes that could indicate a middle step between the small and massive black holes already detected.
This compact dust cloud, which has been a source of fascination to astronomers for years, measures over 1000 AU in diameter and is located about 200 light-years from the center of our galaxy. In the rarest cases it could be identified for the effect they cause. If a cloud of gas is rotating or turbulent, parts of it will be moving toward us while other parts will be moving away.
Although it is well established they reside in seemingly all galaxies we do not know how they get so enormous. A typical stellar-class of black hole can be between approximately three and 10 solar masses.
The find could lead to the resolution of major mysteries regarding black holes by giving scientists a chance to examine how they form. 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.
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Using the ALMA telescope, the team observed the cloud more than 195 light years from the centre of the Milky Way. While only about 60 of these smaller black holes have been confirmed, scientists estimate our galaxy contains about 100 million of them. So cosmologists have posited the existence of intermediate-mass black holes.
The authors' modeling suggested that the black hole in CO-0.40-0.22 was probably 100,000 solar masses, which would place it squarely in the intermediate-mass camp. It's located not far from supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A* that lies at the dead center of our galaxy.
"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", said Brooke Simmons, from the University of California at San Diego, who is not part of the study. It is also the second IMBH candidate within the Milky Way.
We're not quite at confirmation yet, but the evidence is leaning that way. Yet even though it dwarfs the Earth, it's not actually the biggest black hole found in our galaxy.
Professor Tomoharu Oka and colleagues used computer simulations to show the high velocity motion, or kinematics, of the gas could only be explained by an intermediate black hole concealed in its midst. And, given the size of the one in CO-0.40-0.22, that would mean something bigger than a cluster: a dwarf galaxy.