Signs of a large black hole have been found by astronomers using the Nobeyama 45-m Radio Telescope. The black hole could contain a mass of 100 thousand times the mass of the sun. The new discovery is near the Milky Way’s center, and it could lead to understand the reason for a black hole in the center of the galaxies.

The image shows an artist’s impression of the clouds dispersed by a mass black hole. Credit: Tomoharu Oka (Keio University)

“As far as we know, the best candidate for the compact massive object is a black hole,” said Tomoharu Oka, the lead author of the paper that appeared in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Astronomers thought the phenomenon was a gas cloud and named it CO-0.40-0.22, but the unusual behavior led the Japanese scientists to believe it was something else. There was a very wide range of speeds in the gas cloud, so they analyzed it with two different radio telescopes, the so-called Nobeyama 45-m in Japan and the ASTE Telescope in Chile.

A conclusion was reached after they analyzed it: The cloud had two components, a compact but low-density component with a very wide velocity dispersion of 100 Km/s; and a dense component that extends 10 light years with a narrow velocity dispersion, according to Oka.

The team ruled out that it could have been a supernova explosion due the fact they did not find any compact objects in the cloud after X-ray and infrared observations.

After the supernova was discarded, the team performed a simulation of the gas cloud flung using a strong gravity source. The result was an increase of the speed after the gas was attracted by the source. The gas reached its maximum speed when it was closer to the object. After that, the clouds continue passing the object and their speed decreased. These results leave a black hole as the best explanation.

Astronomers could be facing an “intermediate mass” black hole, if they are right, the phenomenon is one of a cain and the only one ever seen. Further study is needed to confirm the theory, as this could lead to the possible understanding of the birth of supermassive black holes.

Source: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan