New celestial body could help explain black hole evolution

While there have been theories in the past, the new discovery could be the first real breakthrough on that subject.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Sep 06, 2017
A team of Japanese researchers believe they have discovered a new type of black hole that could help explain how the gigantic structures evolve,a recent study published inNature Astronomyreports.

The finding -- known as an "intermediate mass black hole" -- is not just an exciting discovery in the world of astronomy, but it could also represent the mysterious gap between small and gigantic black holes. In fact, the finding is so startling that researchers are not sure why they have not discovered such bodies before.

"It's like walking around the world and seeing only newborn infants and really old adults," Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics not involved with the new study, told Gizmodo. "[We're] not seeing any adolescents or early or middle aged people."

It has been long known that there are several different types of black holes. Some have the same amount of mass as a big star, while others -- such as Sagittarius A* at the center of our galaxy -- are more than four million times the size of the sun. However, as a medium-sized black hole has never been found, researchers are not sure how some grew to be so big. While there have been theories in the past, the new discovery could be the first real breakthrough on that subject.

Researchers first noted the body when they spotted a dense cloud near the center of the Milky Way called CO-0.40-0.22. They then used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope to take a closer look at the area and founda spot roughly one five-hundredth the brightness of Sagittarius A* near the cloud.

Further analysis revealed the area did not have an infrared signature or other light signatures that would imply it was a cluster of stars or a galaxy shining behind the cloud. As a result, the teamfound their observations were consistent with a black hole around a hundred thousand times the mass of the Sun.

While the discovery exciting for future research, there is still a long way to go before any definitive conclusions can be made. More trials needs to be done, and researchers plan to bothobserve the source in the radio wave spectrum of light as well as see how the surrounding gas cloud moves. They hope such information will give them information on intermediate black holes and show they how to find them.

"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," added the authors, according to Newsweek. "Further detection of such compact high-velocity features in various environments may increase the number of non-luminous black hole candidate 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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