Space & Astronomy
Astronomers discover 'cosmic killer' black hole
By T.K. Randall
April 2, 2020 · 1 comment
Black holes seem to come in several sizes. Image Credit: NASA / Alain Riazuelo
A type of black hole that could be an important 'missing link' has been discovered outside of our galaxy.
Scientists have been hunting for evidence of what are known as 'intermediate-mass' black holes for years and although they have found hints of their existence, the conclusive discovery of such an object has long proven elusive.
At around 50,000 times the mass of the Sun, these mid-sized black holes are larger than the type produced by a collapsing star but also much smaller than the supermassive black holes found at the center of the Milky Way and other galaxies.
Back in 2006, two telescopes - NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton Observatory - picked up a powerful burst of x-rays coming from an unknown location.
By combining these findings with data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have since been able to pinpoint the source to a star cluster on the edge of a distant galaxy.
Given that the burst did not come from the center of the galaxy, scientists now believe that the signal may have been produced by a star that was being torn apart by an intermediate-mass black hole.
"Intermediate-mass black holes are very elusive objects, and so it is critical to carefully consider and rule out alternative explanations for each candidate," said study principal investigator Dacheng Lin from the University of New Hampshire.
"That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate."
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