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Astronomers Discover New ‘Mid-size’ Black Hole 100,000 Times More Massive than the Sun

Scientists predict that nearly 100 million of these small black holes should exist in the Milky Way, however only about 60 have been found till now

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Black hole in milky way
A near-infrared image of a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy as seen with Hubble Space Telescope/NICMOS. (NASA/STScI) (VOA)
  • Researches in Japan have discovered a super-massive black hole in Milky Way Galaxy
  • The black hole is believed to weigh as much as 400 suns
  • According to studies,  at least 100 million of these small black holes should exist in the Milky Way

Japan, September 5, 2017 : Astronomers have found new evidence for the existence of a mid-sized black hole, considered the missing link in the evolution of super-massive black holes.

Astronomers in Japan found the possible black hole in our own Milky Way galaxy, a long-theorized object which is bigger than the small black holes formed from a single star, but still much smaller than giant black holes such as the one at the center of the Milky Way.

Black holes are difficult to find because they do not emit any light. However, scientists can detect them by their influence on nearby objects.

The astronomers in Japan found new evidence of the so-called intermediate-mass black hole when they turned a powerful telescope in Chile’s Atacama desert on a gas cloud near the center of the Milky Way. The gases in the cloud move at unusual speeds, and the scientists believed they were being pulled by immense gravitational forces. They say the gravitational force is likely caused by a black hole measuring about 1.4 trillion kilometers across.

black hole in Milky way galaxy
Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project are seen in the Atacama desert, some 1500 km north of Santiago, Chile, VOA

The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Theoretical studies predict at least 100 million of these small black holes should exist in the Milky Way, however only about 60 have been found.

The possible mid-sized black hole is much smaller than the super massive black hole that is located in the center of the galaxy, known as Sagittarius A, which weighs as much as 400 million suns.

“This is the first detection of an intermediate-mass black hole candidate in the Milky Way galaxy,” said the study’s leader, Tomoharu Oka from Keio University, Japan.

If confirmed, the intermediate-mass black hole could help explain how supermassive black holes operate. One theory is that supermassive black holes, which are at the center of most massive galaxies, are formed when smaller black holes steadily coalesce into larger ones. 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.

Researchers say they will continue to study the intermediate-mass black hole candidate in the hope of confirming its existence. (VOA)

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NASA Telescope Captures Record-Breaking Thermonuclear X-Ray Flash: ’Burst was Outstanding’

The observations reveal many phenomena that have never been seen together in a single burst

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NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
The X-ray burst, the brightest seen by NICER so far, came from an object named "J1808". Wikimedia Commons

NASA has detected a massive thermonuclear explosion coming from outer space, caused by a massive thermonuclear flash on the surface of a pulsar — the crushed remains of a star that long ago exploded as a supernova.

The explosion released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days.

NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope on the International Space Station (ISS) detected a sudden spike of X-rays on August 20, reports the US space agency.

The X-ray burst, the brightest seen by NICER so far, came from an object named “J1808”.

NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
The explosion released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days. Pixabay

The observations reveal many phenomena that have never been seen together in a single burst.

In addition, the subsiding fireball briefly brightened again for reasons astronomers cannot yet explain.

“This burst was outstanding. We see a two-step change in brightness, which we think is caused by the ejection of separate layers from the pulsar surface, and other features that will help us decode the physics of these powerful events,” said lead researcher Peter Bult, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The detail NICER captured on this record-setting eruption will help astronomers fine-tune their understanding of the physical processes driving the thermonuclear flare-ups of it and other bursting pulsars.

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“J1808” is located about 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.

It spins at a dizzying 401 rotations each second, and is one member of a binary system. Its companion is a brown dwarf, an object larger than a giant planet yet too small to be a star. A steady stream of hydrogen gas flows from the companion toward the neutron star, and it accumulates in a vast storage structure called an accretion disk.

Astronomers employ a concept called the “Eddington limit”, named after English astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, to describe the maximum radiation intensity a star can have before that radiation causes the star to expand.

This point depends strongly on the composition of the material lying above the emission source.

NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope on the International Space Station (ISS) detected a sudden spike of X-rays on August 20, reports the US space agency. Pixabay

“Our study exploits this longstanding concept in a new way,” said co-author Deepto Chakrabarty, a professor of physics at MIT.

“We are apparently seeing the Eddington limit for two different compositions in the same X-ray burst. This is a very powerful and direct way of following the nuclear burning reactions that underlie the event.”

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A paper describing the findings has been published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters. (IANS)