Space

Doomed, rare black hole spotted near the center of the galaxy

Doomed, rare black hole spotte...
Japanese astronomers have discovered a rare type of black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy
Japanese astronomers have discovered a rare type of black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy
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Japanese astronomers have discovered a rare type of black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy
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Japanese astronomers have discovered a rare type of black hole near the center of the Milky Way galaxy

Black holes tend to fall into two categories: fairly small or supermassive. It's long been believed that there should be another class of the objects that fall between those two extremes, and in recent years astronomers have found evidence of these "intermediate mass" black holes (IMBHs). Now a Japanese team has located one near the center of the Milky Way.

When some stars go supernova, they leave behind a black hole with a mass a few times bigger than the Sun. Way up the other end of the scale, you've got supermassive black holes that sit at the center of galaxies, with masses ranging from hundreds of thousands to billions of Suns.

It seems weird that black holes would polarize themselves so strongly, leading scientists to predict that there must be some lurking in that huge middle ground. But black holes are infamously invisible, so they have to be observed indirectly.

In recent years, potential IMBHs have been spotted in radio wave observations of distant galaxies, the gravitational stirrings of stars in a cluster called 47 Tucanae, or flares created as the black hole tears a star to shreds.

For the new study, researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan were investigating a cloud of gas, located near the center of the Milky Way galaxy, that seemed to be moving strangely. Looking at it with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the team found that the gas was churning around something big and invisible – the calling card of a black hole.

"Detailed kinematic analyses revealed that an enormous mass, 30,000 times that of the Sun, was concentrated in a region much smaller than our solar system," says Shunya Takekawa, lead researcher on the study. "This and the lack of any observed object at that location strongly suggests an intermediate-mass black hole. By analyzing other anomalous clouds, we hope to expose other quiet black holes."

These middleweights are thought to play a key role in the formation of larger black holes, as smaller objects gradually merge and eventually become the supermassive monsters with enough gravitational power to hold a galaxy together. And given how close this new object is to the center of the Milky Way, it may be fated to becoming a cosmic snack as part of this process.

"It is significant that this intermediate mass black hole was found only 20 light-years from the supermassive black hole at the galactic center," says Tomoharu Oka, co-lead author of the study. "In the future, it will fall into the supermassive black hole, much like gas is currently falling into it. This supports the merger model of black hole growth."

The research was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: National Institutes of Natural Sciences

4 comments
F. Tuijn
When such a black hole falls into the central black hole will our galaxy become a Seifert galaxy as described in Fred Hoyle's novel 'Inferno'?
Reid Barnes
We have been fascinated by Stephen Hawking’s black holes for over a third of a century based on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, but eventually Hawking informed us they are not really black and there is no event horizon exactly. Everything from ‘black holes’ to dark energy and the accelerating expansion of the universe is theorized using Einstein’s theory. Einstein claimed that the bending of light passing near the Sun, famously measured by Arthur Eddington during a solar eclipse, and also that the precession of the orbit of Mercury around the Sun were due to space-time deformation as characterized by his theory. In essence, he claimed that the explanation for the phenomena is that the geometry near massive objects is not Euclidean. Einstein said that “in the presence of a gravitational field, the geometry is not Euclidean.” But if that non-Euclidean geometry is self-contradicting, then Einstein’s explanation and his theory cannot be correct. How can it be correct if the title of the Facebook Note, “Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity Is Based on Self-contradicting Non-Euclidean Geometry,” is a true statement? Just check out the Fb Note, at the link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/einsteins-general-theory-of-relativity-is-based-on-self-contradicting-non-euclid/1676238042428763/
Nobody
If our sun suddenly became more massive wouldn't it start pulling the planets in closer and their velocity increasing? This is my problem with black holes. First, they are invisible. Second, if they are as massive as claimed wouldn't the many stars orbiting them be traveling at a much much higher velocity(red shifted to the extreme) or be swallowed up in a short time period? Wouldn't galaxies be shrinking like an accretion disk? A lot of theories have been proposed but all of them have shortcomings. If black holes can have masses as low as 25 solar masses there should be a lot more of them, a lot more. Math can describe nature that can be measured but it can't prove what we can not observe. Then it is just another theory. I still think dark matter is just ordinary cold matter and the expansion of the universe is just an observational aberration of changes in the speed of light over time through clouds of gas(yes, the speed of light is not constant, look up refractive index) or gravitational lensing over time. Anything out there over several billion light years has either changed, moved dramatically or no longer exists.
Pupp1
Nobody, a black hole does not necessarily pull stuff in. Objects in orbit will stay there forever, unless there is something to slow them down. But, there can be plenty of other matter existing as dust and gas, that may not be traveling at the same orbital speed. So, then the planet may run into more dust that is orbiting slower or even the opposite way, and these impacts will slow the planet down and so shift it to a lower orbit. The other way planets may impact their sun is by having their orbits shifted to be elliptical by gravitational encounters with other large bodies. or more likely, actually leave their solar system. I don't know for shure how a black hole would behave if there were more matter being accrued from one side, vs. the other. But, I suspect it would be the same as a planet. Gravitational interaction is not always as clear as you might think. For example, our moon is actually going higher in its orbit over time. The reason is that the tides interact with it. Basically, the moon and water pull on each other, so that the earth's spin pulls the moon to go a bit faster, and conversely the earth slows down a bit.