- Astronomers have detected a rare Jupiter-sized black hole in the Milky Way, marking the third of its kind within our galaxy.
- The discovery was made by scientists at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) who observed a traveling cloud of celestial gases using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescopes in Chile.
- Although the black hole itself remains invisible, its presence was inferred from the orbital motions of the gas cloud, revealing a black hole approximately 3,000 times more massive than our Sun but with a size comparable to Jupiter.
- This newfound category of medium-sized black holes provides fresh insights into black hole diversity, distinct from the well-studied smaller ones born from stellar collapses and the supermassive ones at the Milky Way’s center.
- The discovery suggests the possibility of more medium-sized black holes in the Milky Way, encouraging astronomers to search for similar celestial gas clouds that may lead to the identification of additional enigmatic black holes.
Researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) uncovered evidence of this rare type of black hole, as reported in a research publication on the preprint server ArXiv in December. Although the black hole itself remains invisible, scientists observed a traveling cloud of celestial gases that appeared to orbit around an unseen massive object. This observation was made possible using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescopes located in Chile.
Shunya Takekawa, an astrophysicist at NAOJ, expressed excitement about the discovery, stating that the gas cloud’s orbital motions strongly suggested the presence of an invisible massive object. Analysis of the cloud’s orbital dynamics led the team to estimate that the newly-discovered black hole is approximately 3,000 times more massive than our Sun. What’s particularly intriguing is that despite its significant mass, this black hole is incredibly compact, occupying a space roughly equivalent to that of Jupiter. To put this in perspective, this newfound black hole is approximately 3 million times denser than the Sun.
In the realm of black holes, scientists have a well-established understanding of smaller ones formed from the collapse of stars, as well as the supermassive black holes residing at the center of galaxies like the Milky Way. However, medium-sized black holes have remained relatively mysterious. This discovery marks a significant step toward unraveling the mysteries surrounding these enigmatic objects and broadening our knowledge of black hole diversity.
Moreover, this revelation has opened the door to the possibility that there may be numerous medium-sized black holes drifting through the Milky Way. The identification of this Jupiter-sized black hole suggests that astronomers can now refine their search criteria to focus on clouds of spiraling gas. As a result, other research teams may soon make similar discoveries, shedding light on the prevalence of these unusual and scarce black holes throughout our galaxy.