Not one, but 20000 black holes hiding in Milky Way's heart

Not one, but 20000 black holes hiding in Milky Way's heart

According to a study in the journal Nature published on Wednesday, the stellar black holes exist in addition to the already known supermassive black hole, called Sagittarius A, which sits at the center of the Milky Way. And because scientists know what fraction of black holes will bind with low mass stars, after they discovered the 12 they were able to calculate the population of isolated black holes around Sgr A*.

Instead, the researchers looked for slow-burn signals that would also indicate the presence of smaller black holes, in order to spot all of the signals that otherwise can't be observed. The balance of high-energy versus low-energy x-rays emitted by these sources "are consistent with those from low-mass binaries with black hole companions", she notes.

The centre of our galaxy is teeming with black holes, sort of like a Times Square for odd super gravity objects, astronomers discovered.

In the past, failed efforts to identify evidence of such a cusp have concentrated on searching for the bright burst of X-ray glow that periodically occurs in black hole binaries.

As gravity takes over and eventually wins, it forms a singularity, a single point in space where gravity is so strong that no object - not even light - can escape its grasp once it crosses its boundary.

Simulations and cosmological models also suggest that the central area of the Milky Way has several other black holes.

Astronomers poring over old x-ray observations have found signs of a dozen black holes in the inner circle of the Milky Way.

Black holes are one of the most fascinating objects in our universe.

For the first time, an global team of astronomers led by astrophysicist Charles Hailey from Columbia University in New York, US, has found have found a dozen of these stellar mass black holes within 3.3 light-years (about 30 trillion kilometres) of Sagittarius A*. "That's why people like to study it".

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The galactic centre is already known to teem with stars, supernovae, pulsars, gas and dust, and the very big black hole called Sagittarius A*, whose mass is equivalent to four million suns.

Either way, our galaxy's supermassive black hole should be surrounded by hundreds of stellar-mass black holes - at least.

This artist's rendering shows Sagittarius A* surrounded by a cloud of dust and gas, within which are 12 small black holes.

Although scientists cannot directly observe black holes with the technology we now posses, they can detect black holes by studying the matter around them.

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, who wasn't part of the study, praised the finding as exciting but confirming what scientists had long expected. In the case of the Milky Way, we have the gargantuan Sagittarius A*, whose mass is equivalent to four million suns.

From the data gathered by Chandra, the authors of the study believe that there may be hundreds of black holes paired with other stars in unique binary systems which stronger X-rays. Those x-rays are what astronomers observe.

Knowing about these dozen bright black hole binaries, the researchers wondered how many fainter ones they might be missing. Using that ratio, Hailey figures that even though they only spotted a dozen there must be 300 to 500 binary black hole systems.

Black holes tend to come in two sizes. But estimated that there could be up to 20,000 of them extending further out from Sagittarius A* based on calculations. The central region of our galaxy is a crowded place, filled with lots of other X-ray sources that aren't black holes.

Hailey said it is "sort of like a little farm where you have all the right conditions to produce and hold on to a large number of black holes".

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