A new type of black hole has been discovered in the Milky Way known as a middle weight blackhole.
It’s believed that super-massive black holes, the ones at the centers of galaxies, form from the merger of middle-weight black holes. The presence of middle weight black holes are very hard to detect and have never been spotted in our galaxy, until recently.
Researchers from Harvard and the University of Queensland have announced the find of an intermediate mass black hole in the Milky Way. The finding was originally published in Nature, and details a black hole that weight 2,200 times the mass of our sun. It’s located 13,000 light-years from earth in the stellar cluster 47 Tucanae.
Prior to this find, it was believed that intermediate-mass black holes existed, but there was little proof. Most astronomical findings show stellar sized black holes, similar to or larger than our sun or super-massive blackholes such as the ones in the centers of active galaxies. In 2012 scientists found a potential intermediate blackhole 300 million light years away, but we’re still unsure of it’s exact proportions.
“We want to find intermediate-mass black holes because they are the missing link between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. They may be the primordial seeds that grew into the monsters we see in the centers of galaxies today.”
– Bülent Kiziltan, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Middle weight black holes are tough to spot because no black holes can be seen directly. Usually, astronomers will look at how objects in space interact with their gravitational environments to see how they are affected, and provide a black hole conclusion. But with middle-weight black holes, the gravitational evidence is incredibly faint. This discovery was made by watching interactions with stars and pulsars in the 47 Tucanae cluster, which showed that a black hole was hiding at it’s center.
Finding this middle-weight black hole suggests that there are more of these in our galaxy, and our universe. Another crucial element in understanding the formation of our cosmos.