A rare black hole would be roaming the center of our galaxy

Milky Way black holes

Astronomers think they have discovered an intermediate black hole wandering in our galaxy. They analyzed gaseous forms identified with the ALMA telescope in the galactic center.

A black hole is right now strolling around our galaxy according to a group of Japanese scientists in a study that they have prepublished on December 27, 2018 on arXiv.org.

The astronomers claim to have found evidence of the existence of an “intermediate black hole wandering in the galactic center”, ie in the center of rotation of the disk of the Milky Way. This discovery was made possible thanks to the data recorded by ALMA last May. This large network of 66 antennas in northern Chile forms a giant radio telescope charged with observing black holes or the formation of planets.

The antennas of the ALMA network. // Source: ESO / Y.Beletsky (cropped photo)

The radio telescope allowed researchers to discover “gas flows in orbit around an invisible massive object in the central region of our galaxy. The scientists have identified two nearby gaseous forms, which they call “balloon” and “stream” because of their appearance. They note that these forms seem to come from the same nebula.

Looking at how the gas was moving in the “balloon” and the “stream”, the researchers suspected that these movements were related to a gravity phenomenon around a center. They eventually identify this “massive gravitational source [hidden] in the balloon” and hypothesize it is a black hole of intermediate size.

The galactic center. // Source: Wikimedia / NASA / JPL-Caltech / S. Stolovy (SSC / Caltech)

Such black holes can reach thousands of solar masses. They are larger than stellar black holes (between 3 to 5 solar masses) and less than supermassive black holes (at least one million solar masses). As Space.com notes, intermediate black holes are also rarer than their stellar and supermassive counterparts.

This is not the first time that scientists suspect the existence of a mid-size black hole in the galactic center. Similar phenomena have been the subject of work since 2005 and 2016.

More research on the physical characteristics of the object is needed to confirm that this new discovery is indeed a black hole of this type.

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Emy Torres

Emy holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan and currently freelances part-time for The Talking Democrat.