Scientists detect a potential Intermediate-mass black hole in the Milky Way

This NASA image shows the black hole Sagittarius A in the heart of the Milky Way

"[But] the origins of such supermassive black holes remain unknown". The cloud had what the team called "extremely broad velocity width", meaning it was moving very fast with varying velocities they could not explain. While only about 60 of these smaller black holes have been confirmed, scientists estimate our galaxy contains about 100 million of them. This "mid-sized" black hole is still 100,000 times more massive than our sun. "We know very little about how black holes form". The location of a potential black hole weighing as much as 100,000 suns is decisively the center stride in the process that cosmologists have looked for. Not at all like those that make up other interstellar mists, have the gasses in this cloud - including hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide - moved at fiercely different speeds. This similarity with Sgr A* "supports the notion that CO-0.40-0.22* [the asterisk denoting the radio source] is an intermediate-mass black hole", Oka says. Astronomers estimated the black hole has a mass of about 100,000 times that of our sun, and evidence points it's a special kind of black hole that has always been theorized but never identified.

Scientists have shared their excitement over the findings, as confirming the existence of an IMBH would open a new field of research to fully comprehend supermassive black holes, which can be billions of times the mass of our sun. If confirmed, this discovery will constitute the second-largest black hole to be discovered within the Milky Way. It's a molecular cloud, which absorbs most wavelengths of light, making it hard to see what's inside.

"We think some of those black holes are the seeds from which the much larger supermassive black holes grow to at least a million times more massive", said Brooke Simmons, from the University of California at San Diego, who is not part of the study. The researchers wanted to understand the peculiar movements of the cloud's gases.

Black holes are formed when the centres of giant stars collapse in upon themselves. But there's one particular size of black hole that has been especially evasive, even though astronomers have theorized that they should be plentiful. However, until now no definitive evidence has existed for intermediate-mass black holes that could indicate a middle step between the small and massive black holes already detected.

Observations from the Alma telescope in Chile showed that molecules in the elliptical cloud, which is 200 light years from the centre of the Milky Way and 150 trillion kilometres wide, were being pulled around by enormous gravitational forces. The team noted those features could be explained by a "gravitational kick" caused by an "invisible compact object with a mass of about 105 solar masses", Newsweek reports. According to Science Mag, the mid-sized black hole could be lurking in the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. If it were, in fact, a black hole, it would provide the first confirmation of the existence of intermediate-mass black holes. Scientists will continue their research in the hopes of further detecting these high-velocity compact masses. "This would make a considerable contribution to the progress of modern physics".

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