Signs of second largest black hole in the Milky Way
Astronomers using the Nobeyama 45-m Radio Telescope have detected signs of an invisible black hole with a mass of 100 thousand times the mass of the Sun around the center of the Milky Way. The team assumes that this possible “intermediate mass” black hole is a key to understanding the birth of the supermassive black holes located in the centers of galaxies.
|Artist’s impression of the clouds scattered by an intermediate mass black hole [Credit: NAOJ]|
To investigate the detailed structure, the team observed CO-0.40-0.22 with the Nobeyama 45-m Telescope again to obtain 21 emission lines from 18 molecules. The results show that the cloud has an elliptical shape and consists of two components: a compact but low density component with a very wide velocity dispersion of 100 km/s, and a dense component extending 10 light years with a narrow velocity dispersion.
The team performed a simple simulation of gas clouds flung by a strong gravity source. In the simulation, the gas clouds are first attracted by the source and their speeds increase as they approach it, reaching maximum at the closest point to the object. After that the clouds continue past the object and their speeds decrease.
|(Top) CO-0.40-0.22 seen in the 87 GHz emission line of SiO molecules.|
(Bottom) Position-velocity diagram of CO-0.04-0.22 along the magenta
line in the top panel [Credit: NAOJ]
If that is the case, this is the first detection of an intermediate mass black hole. Astronomers already know about two sizes of black holes: stellar-mass black holes, formed after the gigantic explosions of very massive stars; and supermassive black holes (SMBH) often found at the centers of galaxies. The mass of SMBH ranges from several million to billions of times the mass of the Sun. A number of SMBHs have been found, but no one knows how the SMBHs are formed.
These results open a new way to search for black holes with radio telescopes. Recent observations have revealed that there are a number of wide-velocity-dispersion compact clouds similar to CO-0.40-0.22. The team proposes that some of those clouds might contain black holes. A study suggested that there are 100 million black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy, but X-ray observations have only found dozens so far. Most of the black holes may be “dark” and very difficult to see directly at any wavelength.
“Investigations of gas motion with radio telescopes may provide a complementary way to search for dark black holes” said Oka. “The on-going wide area survey observations of the Milky Way with the Nobeyama 45-m Telescope and high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have the potential to increase the number of black hole candidates dramatically.”
The observation results were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Source: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan [January 15, 2016]