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

Distant star Icarus captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in galaxy

New research has found that it's not alone.

"We observed a dozen black holes" around Sagittarius A, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, said study co-author Chuck Hailey, an astrophysicist at New York's Columbia University.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The center of our galaxy is teeming with black holes, sort of like a Times Square for unusual super gravity objects, astronomers discovered.

Thus far, efforts to locate black holes have centered around watching out for bursts of X-rays that are given off periodically as matter falls into their gaping maws. By the time we see the light from these galaxies, they are vastly different than how they are in this ancient light we now observe.

Researchers hope the star, known as J0815+4729, which is in line with the Lynx constellation, will help them learn more about the Big Bang, the popular theory about the galaxy's evolution. Alternative explanations posit these anomalously massive black holes grew and merged in throngs of stars called globular clusters, but that process can easily require more time than the current age of the universe.

After poring over archival data from NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope, researchers from Colombia University in the United States found signs of a dozen black holes in the inner circle of the Milky Way.

While black holes can form quite far from the centre of their galaxies, they gradually lose energy and start to migrate towards the galactic centre, Professor Hailey said, "much as sediment dumped in water will sink down under the influence of gravity". "The white dwarf binaries look bluer and the black hole binaries redder".

Hailey said Chandra's capabilities were key to finding the black holes. But it has remained an unproven theory because the holes are so hard to detect.

They found a dozen of these black hole binaries, and because it's rare for a black hole to grab a star, the scientists can infer that many others are out there that didn't grab a star and are thus invisible.

Despite telescopes being trained on the galactic centre for more than a decade, astrophysicists have had no joy.

They then analyzed the spatial distribution and properties of the identified binary systems and concluded from their observations that there must be anywhere from 300 to 500 such binaries and roughly 10,000 isolated black holes in the area surrounding Sagittarius A*.

The galaxy we inhabit, the Milky Way, may be getting even bigger, as researchers found some star-forming regions at the outer edge of the disc, which may indicate the models of galaxy formation with new stars may slowly increase the size of it.

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.

In a story April 4 about black holes, The Associated Press reported erroneously the distance from Earth to the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It's believed that these types of black holes lie at the centre of most galaxies.

The Milky Way has one.

Above is an artist's impression of our galaxy, the Milky Way, showing position of the sun.

First, their mass tends to pull them to the center. "There are supposed to be 10,000 to 20,000 of these things in a region just six light years wide that no one has been able to find", Hailey said. And, Hailey said, perhaps they will find one at the centre of a distant galaxy. "Finding large numbers of black holes is just really neat because it's just a larger population to study".

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