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Astronomers announced the discovery of thousands of black holes last months, at the center of the Milky Way. The data was provided by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
“This black hole bounty consists of stellar-mass black holes” which are estimated to be five to 30 times the mass of our Sun. These new black holes were discovered within three light years of the supermassive black hole at our Galaxy’s center, called Sagittarius A*.
“Researchers combed through data from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, looking for possible black holes in close orbit with a star,” researchers said in a new video posted on the Chandra website. “They found about a dozen strong black-hole candidates within a very short distance of the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. This implies the presence of other undetected stellar-mass black holes. Up to a thousand stellar-mass black holes could be present.”
This new analysis using Chandra data is the first observational evidence for such a “black hole bounty”.
The video zooms in on Sagittarius A*, with suspected locations of other black holes circled in the animation. But there are other possible explanations for the X-ray sources. At least half of the observed X-ray radiation might be from rapidly rotating neutron stars that have strong magnetic fields, according to scientists at the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
The black is sightless by itself. But a black hole or neutron star locked in close orbit with a star will pull gas from its companion (astronomers call these systems “X-ray binaries”).
According to NASA this material falls into a disk and heats up to millions of degrees and produces X-rays before disappearing into the black hole. Some of these X-ray binaries appear as point-like sources in the Chandra image.
A paper based on the new Chandra results was published April 5 in the journal Nature. The work was headed by Charles J. Hailey, co-director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory at Columbia University in New York.