New research finds potentially thousands of black holes orbiting within a few light-years of the galactic center.
At the center of our galaxy is a massive black hole. This black hole, called Sagittarius A*, is approximately 6 million times the mass of our sun, and the gravitational field it generates is enough to keep our entire galaxy orbiting it. But Sagittarius A* is not the only black hole at the center of our galaxy: New research from Columbia University suggests that the galactic center could hold thousands more.
The Columbia researchers gathered data from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Space Telescope, which studies the night sky looking for x-rays from stars, black holes, and other galaxies. In this case, the researchers looked at signals coming from a few light years around Sagittarius A*, hoping to find a handful of black holes nearby.
Black holes by themselves don’t tend to give off any x-rays, but when they’re orbiting around another star they do. In this case, the researchers managed to find a dozen such black holes with companion stars. Because nearly all black holes are loners, this suggests that there could be upwards of 10,000 total black holes in the center of our galaxy.
This new finding could help scientists looking to study black holes by giving them many more known black holes to study. Prior to this, scientists had only located a few dozen black holes in our entire galaxy. Perhaps this result could be the first in a series of new discoveries about these strange cosmic objects.
Source: Popular Mechanics