Astronomers in Japan have found a possible black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, which they believe could be the missing link in the development of supermassive black holes that has been theorized, but never officially found.
Intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) – “considered the missing link in the evolution of cosmic objects” — are difficult to find because they don’t emit their own light, but can be detected by their presence on other objects, according to Science magazine. Specific proof of an IMBH hasn’t been found.
A team of scientists at Keio University in Yokohama last year found a “peculiar molecular cloud” of gas near the center of our galaxy, according to a study published in Nature Astronomy.
The scientists found the gas cloud showed a wide range of movements, which could suggest the cloud contains a black hole of 100,000 solar masses, Science reported.
As researchers continued to study the gas, they found radio waves, which “appeared very similar to that of Sagittarius A, the radio source believed to be the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, but 500 times less luminous.”
The similarities between Sagittarius A and the newfound gas support the idea that the gas is an IMBH.
“It is widely accepted that black holes with masses greater than a million solar masses lurk at the centers of massive galaxies,” the study stated. “The origins of such supermassive black holes remain unknown.”
According to the magazine, the scientists believe the gas was once the core of a dwarf galaxy that was combined into the Milky Way, and may one day fall into Sagittarius A.
“Theoretical studies have predicted that 100 million to 1 billion black holes should exist in the Milky Way, although only 60 or so have been identified through observations so far,” the study said.
The astronomers plan to continue to study the gas, and will also research other molecular clouds that could have black holes within.