Scientists found evidence that thousands of black holes are clustered at the center of the Milky Way.
For years, astronomers have known that a black hole sits at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, just around 26,000 light-years away from Earth. It was first spotted in the 1960s but has only been revealed as a supermassive black hole recently. Researchers call it Sagittarius A*.
However, newest data from the NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory revealed that many smaller black holes are clustered around Sagittarius A*. Using this latest information, the astronomers now believe that as many as 10,000 smaller black holes are currently circling the center of our galaxy.
In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team of researchers described how they found the black holes by searching for stellar binaries containing black holes paired with nearby stars. Since black holes are difficult to spot, they relied on the lower-energy emissions spectra produced by the accretion disk surrounding a black hole’s maw.
“Low-mass X-ray binary systems that contain a stellar-mass black hole are natural tracers of isolated black holes. Here we report observations of a dozen quiescent X-ray binaries in a density cusp within one parsec of Sagittarius A*,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The astronomers led by astrophysicist Chuck Hailey from the Columbia University reportedly looked for black hole binaries within three light-years of Sagittarius A*. Based on their findings, there are roughly 10,000 black holes clustered within the said region.
This discovery allegedly provides more in-depth insight into one fundamental aspect of galaxies.
“Since our galaxy is very average, it tells us that the universe is teeming with black holes orbiting near their supermassive black holes because most galaxies have supermassive black holes,” Hailey was quoted as saying.
The result of the research also led the scientists to believe that there are approximately 500 black hole binaries in The Milky Way galaxy. They also concluded that the black holes with visible accretion disks are mere samplings of those that must exist.
“Imagine you were standing on a football field, and you had a whole pile of 100-watt lightbulbs and 10-watt lightbulbs,” Hailey went on to say. “You could still see the 100-watt ones, but you might not see the 10-watt ones. By knowing what the ratio was on the football field, you could figure out how many dim ones you missed at a mile away.”