Massive black hole found lurking at center of Milky Way

For a year, the research team, led by Tomoharu Oka of Keio University in Yokohama, Japan, has studied a strange cloud of molecular gas near the center of the Milky Way.
By Jackie Flores | Sep 06, 2017
In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists say they may have found a monster-sized black hole near the center of the Milky Way with an estimated mass about 100,000 times that of the Sun.

The newly discovered black hole may be an Intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH) a special type of black hole that scientists have long hypothesized but never actually observed.

IMBHs could explain the formation of supermassive black holes, providing a missing link in the development of cosmic objects, a Newsweek report said.

For a year, the research team, led by Tomoharu Oka of Keio University in Yokohama, Japan, has studied a strange cloud of molecular gas near the center of the Milky Way. The gas cloud moved with such velocities that the scientists' computer simulations suggested it was harboring a massive black hole.

The suspected black hole was first detected with the National Observatory of Japan's 45-meter Nobeyama radio telescope. Since then, the team studied the molecular cloud with additional instruments, including the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

One prominent theory explaining the formation of supermassive black holes is that they are created by the merging of IMBHs at the centers of galaxies.

"Theoretical studies have predicted that 100 million to one billion black holes should exist in the Milky Way, although only 69 or so have been identified through observations so far," the authors write. "Further detection of such compact high-velocity features in various environments may increase the number of non-luminous black hole candidates and thereby increase targets to search for evidential proof of general relativity. This would make a considerable contribution to the progress of modern physics."

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