Sci-tech

10000 black holes at Milky Way's core, researchers say

10000 black holes at Milky Way's core, researchers say

A team from Columbia University in NY believe they have proven a decades-old theory that a multitude of smaller black holes surround the "supermassive" black hole at the core of the Milky Way. Though most of the objects seen in this image are located near the Galactic center, the features above and below the Galactic plane tend to lie closer to Earth. The finding is the first to support a decades-old prediction, opening up myriad opportunities to better understand the universe.

Hailey's co-authors on the paper include: Kaya Mori, Michael E. Berkowitz, and Benjamin J. Hord, all of Columbia University; Franz E. Bauer, of the Instituto de Astrofísica, Facultad de Física, Pontificia, Universidad Católica de Chile, Millennium Institute of Astrophysics, Vicuña Mackenna, and the Space Science Institute; and Jaesub Hong, of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole that lurks at the centre of the Milky Way, is certainly the dominant feature in that region of space. "In a sense, this is the only laboratory we have to study this phenomenon". "There hasn't been much credible evidence".

In the study which appeared in the journal Nature, Hailey 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. Several boffins have plunged into extensive researches for black holes around Sgr A* but these explorations were fruitless for the most part of it.

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

The most common method to look for black holes is to look for bursts of X-ray glow which occurs in some black hole binaries.

Scientists believe there is a heavy concentration of these isolated and mated black holes in the Galactic center, forming a density cusp which gets more crowded as distance to the supermassive black hole decreases. This is how they managed to narrow down the position of Sag A* in the first place, as the black hole's huge gravity acts as the focal point for the insane orbits of these stars. 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.

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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. When the captured star has a low mass, the binary emits X-ray bursts that are weak but consistent and easier to detect.

"But every now and then you'll find one of these black holes catch a star, and matter will come out of this star in a disk around the black hole ... so we can detect the tip of the iceberg". Black holes consuming a dying star emit low-energy X-rays compared to other stars or objects, so they were able to isolate them omitting other, high-energy X-rays.

By going through data already collected from the region of Sag A*, by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, their search turned up 12 results that match what they expect from these inactive black hole - low-mass star binary systems.

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

But since black holes are black, with nothing - including light - able to escape their mighty grasp, how does one exactly go about finding them?

"All the information astrophysicists need is at the centre of the galaxy".

Nevertheless, the location of these black holes are what's significant: To date, we have only identified almost sixty black holes within our galaxy, but most are concentrated towards the galactic center.


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