Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Milky Way galaxy houses thousands of small black holes: Study suggests

Milky Way galaxy houses thousands of small black holes: Study suggests

For decades, scientists theorized that circling in the center of galaxies, including ours, were lots of stellar black holes, collapsed giant stars where the gravity is so strong even light doesn't get out.

The study provides the first evidence for a long-held theory that the massive black hole at the core of every large galaxy should be surrounded by thousands of smaller ones, they wrote in the science journal Nature.

Chuck Hailey, the study's lead author and a co-director of the university's astrophysics lab, explains that studying the distribution makes it possible to learn the interaction between bigger black holes and the smaller black holes.

"There are only about five dozen known black holes in the entire galaxy - 100,000 light-years wide - and 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.

He explained that Sgr A* is surrounded by a halo of gas and dust that provides the ideal breeding ground for the birth of massive stars, which live, die and could turn into black holes there.

By extrapolating from the properties and distribution of these binaries, the team estimates that there may be 300-500 low-mass binaries and 10,000 isolated low-mass black holes surrounding Sgr A*. According to Hailey, this is the obvious way to search for black holes located in the Galactic Center. The find is a breakthrough in understanding how black holes form. But when black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable.

The biggest black holes have masses ranging from millions to billions of times that of the sun. This way, they discovered how to look for smaller black holes and even spotted some of them.

Researchers at the Columbia University in NY including professor Charles Hailey and his colleagues used the archival data obtained by NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope using which, the came to their conclusions as stated in the research paper. After their calculations, they found out that there are probably 10,000 black holes that exist in clusters somewhere in the center of our galaxy.

The center of our galaxy is teeming with black holes, sort of like a Times Square for odd super gravity objects, astronomers discovered.

In future, using the advanced and powerful telescopes, scientists can study more on X-rays and its sources which is Sagittarius A. That will help them to understand the evolution of black holes and about gravitational waves.

The university's Dr Chuck Hailey said: "This finding confirms a major theory and the implications are many".

Based on data from studying black holes closer to Earth, they extrapolated there must be about 500 binaries around our galaxy's core in all, majority too dim to observe. But mostly the center of the galaxy is the ideal "hot house" for black hole formation, with lots of dust and gas. But if you took the equivalent space around Earth there would be zero black holes, not thousands, Hailey said.

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