Astronomers Uncover Second-Largest Black Hole in Milky Way Galaxy

Astronomers discover the Milky Way's second-largest black hole, a 12-solar-mass intermediate-mass black hole located 27,000 light-years away, shedding new light on these cosmic giants and their role in galaxy formation.

Wojciech Zylm
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Astronomers Uncover Second-Largest Black Hole in Milky Way Galaxy

Astronomers Uncover Second-Largest Black Hole in Milky Way Galaxy

In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers have identified the second-largest black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, offering new insights into the mysterious cosmic giants that shape our universe. The newly found black hole, which is yet to be named, is estimated to be 12 times more massive than the Sun and is located approximately 27,000 light-years away from Earth.

The discovery was made by a team of international researchers using data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. By analyzing the motion of stars orbiting the black hole, the team was able to calculate its mass and confirm its existence. The findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy on April 17, 2024.

"This is an exciting discovery that sheds light on the population of black holes in our galaxy," said lead author Dr. Samantha Thompson from the University of Cambridge. "It's the first time we've found a black hole of this size in the Milky Way, and it raises questions about how many more might be out there."

Why this matters: The discovery of the second-largest black hole in the Milky Way has significant implications for our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies. It offers valuable data for evaluating theories of stellar evolution and could assist in solving the puzzles related to supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.

Black holes are among the most enigmatic objects in the universe, and their study has been a major focus of astronomical research for decades. They are formed when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycles, creating a region of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape.

The newly discovered black hole is classified as an intermediate-mass black hole, which is larger than stellar-mass black holes but smaller than the supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies. The Milky Way's central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, has a mass of about 4 million Suns.

"This discovery fills a gap in our understanding of black holes," said co-author Professor Michael Brown from Monash University in Australia. "We knew about stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes, but the existence of intermediate-mass black holes was still uncertain. This finding confirms that they do exist and opens up new avenues for research."

The team plans to continue studying the newly discovered black hole to learn more about its properties and how it interacts with its surroundings. They also hope to use similar techniques to search for other intermediate-mass black holes in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies.

"This is just the beginning," said Dr. Thompson. "With the abilities of current and future telescopes, we may be able to discover many more of these concealed giants and assemble a more comprehensive understanding of our galaxy's history and structure."

Key Takeaways

  • Astronomers discovered 2nd largest black hole in Milky Way, 12x Sun's mass.
  • Black hole located 27,000 light-years from Earth, classified as intermediate-mass.
  • Discovery offers insights into galaxy formation, stellar evolution, and supermassive black holes.
  • Confirms existence of intermediate-mass black holes, opens new research avenues.
  • Researchers plan to search for more intermediate-mass black holes in Milky Way.