Astronomers have discovered what may be the second largest massive black hole in our galaxy, and it may be the missing piece of the space puzzle.
But radio astronomers have discovered a black hole candidate by accident. They followed the rotation of gases caught up in the powerful gravitational field of a black hole, potentially creating a new method for detecting the elusive black holes of “intermediate mass”.
Using the 45-meter Nobeyama radio telescope, which is under the control of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NANO), the researchers discovered this object at a distance of 200 light-years from the supermassive black hole of the Milky Way Strelets A * (Sgr. A *). By tracking emissions from a swirling gas cloud called “CO-0.40-0.22”, they found a surprisingly large velocity dispersion — in other words, this gas cloud consists of a material that rotates over a wide range of speeds. In this region, there seems to be no active supernova or any other energetic event that could cause this strange phenomenon.
Using computer simulations, the researchers were able to conclude that the center of this interstellar storm is an extremely compact object - in other words, black hole, and it must be massive. And “massive” implies an order of about 100,000 solar masses. If this information is confirmed, it identifies an invisible object in the center of the CO-0.40-0.22 black hole with the so-called “intermediate mass”, the second by mass after the powerful Sgr. BUT *. Sgr itself. A * “weighs” a staggering 4 million solar masses. “Considering the fact that compact objects are not visible on X-ray or infrared observations, as far as we know, the best candidate for a compact massive object is a black hole,” said Tomoharu Oka of Keio University in Japan and lead author of a study published in the journal Astrophysical Journal .
Intermediate mass black holes are truly mysterious creatures. They are the “missing link” in the evolution of black holes; we have stellar mass black holes (formed after the death of a supernova massive star), and we have supermassive black holes (which live in the cores of most galaxies), but if black holes start small and grow by merging with other black holes and consuming matter , they must go through an intermediate phase. Alas, astronomers have not yet confirmed that black holes really go through an intermediate stage - they only confirmed that black holes are of the sizes “small” and “XXL”.
So we still have a puzzle. Perhaps intermediate mass black holes are just hard to find? Or are they incredibly rare? The first question can be solved by improving detection methods, but the second question presents a problem for theories of black hole evolution and can demonstrate a huge flaw in our astrophysical thinking.
Some theories of the evolution of galaxies suggest that the Milky Way should contain 100 million black holes, but X-ray studies have revealed only a tiny fraction of this number. It is here that radio telescopes can fill a niche in the search for invisible medium black holes. "Studies of the movement of gas from radio telescopes can provide an additional way to search for invisible black holes," Oka said in a press release. "The ongoing extensive survey studies of the Milky Way with the Nobeyama 45-m telescope and high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) make it possible to dramatically increase the number of black hole candidates."
The location of CO-0.40-0.22 also intrigues; if our black hole fusion model is valid for the growth of black holes on their way to becoming supermassive, then there should be a concentration of massive black holes near the galactic nuclei. Since the candidate in question is only 200 light years from Sgr. A *, this may mean that, ultimately, the object in CO-0.40-0.22 deviates towards Sgr. And * to add his impressive weight.