After 2015 being the year of astronomical discoveries, 2016 doesn’t fail to deliver either as scientists discover the second largest black hole in the Milky Way.
- A medium-sized black hole was discovered by Japanese astronomers
- Using radio telescopes besides X-ray telescopes could help scientists find more black holes
- The black hole acts as a gravity source which pulls gas clouds closer to it
The discovery was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters by a team of researchers from the Keio University, Japan. They used the Nobeyama 45 radio telescope to spot a gas cloud located at approximately 200 light years from the center of the Milky Way. The gas cloud was named CO-0.40-0.22.
The finding was also confirmed in Chile using the ASTE telescope. After analyzing the gas cloud, the astronomers realized it has an elliptical shape and that the gas has different speeds. More precisely, the cloud has two components. One that has a low density but it is very fast in dispersing at about 100 km per second and another that is denser, extending about 10 light-years with a low velocity dispersion.
Professor Tomoharu Oka, the lead researcher, claims the cosmic discovery represents a black hole because the team could not find any signs of a compact object, but only gas. If compact objects were present, than the cloud would have actually been a supernova.
The team of astronomers also conducted a simulation of clouds using a gravity source. They observed that as the clouds got nearer to the source their speed also increased reaching maximum intensity when they got closest. After passing by the object the gas clouds’ speed decreased.
Given these observations, the astronomers speculate that their discovery could be a black hole of medium size. Although they are not sure yet, this would be the first discovery of this type and it could lead to further understanding of how black holes form and how the supermassive black hole in our Milky Way took birth.
It is believed that there are over 100 million black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy but so far, astronomers have only discovered about a dozen of them using X-ray. But the new use of radio telescopes for analyzing gas clouds motion could prove to be of great help in finding the other black holes in our galaxy.
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