A huge black hole – about 100,000 times more massive than our Sun – has been discovered lurking in a toxic gas cloud near the heart of the Milky Way. If confirmed, the object will rank as the second largest black hole in the Milky Way after the supermassive Sagittarius A* which is located at the very centre of the galaxy.
Astronomers from the Keio University in Japan using the Alma telescope in Chile were observing a gas cloud to understand the movement of its gases. They found 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 immense gravitational forces.
The most likely cause, according to computer models, was a black hole no more than 1.4 trillion kilometres across. The scientists also detected radio waves coming from the centre of the cloud which indicated the presence of a black hole. “This is the first detection of an intermediate-mass black hole candidate in the Milky Way galaxy,” said Tomoharu Oka, astronomer at Keio University.
The newly-found black hole could be the core of an old dwarf galaxy that was cannibalised during the formation of the Milky Way billions of years ago, Oka told ‘The Guardian’. In time, the object will be drawn towards Sagittarius A* and sink into it, making the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way even more massive, Oka said.
The research was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.