Ever since scientists discovered black holes, they’ve known only about two type: a huge one that could swallow a whole galaxy, and a smaller one that can swallow the sun.
More recently, satellite imaging showed a mid-sized black hole (of an intermediate mass), and it finally fills the gap. Until now, some black holes of its size have been seen, but this one is proof that there are many other intermediate black holes in the universe.
Astrophysicists saw a flare by using three X-ray telescopes and looked at the edge of a remote galaxy. There, the flare has a small brightness, meaning that the black hole might have consumed the star in 2003, and over the years, the flare slowly faded.
Lead author Dacheng Lin stated:
“From the theory of galaxy formation, we expect a lot of wandering intermediate-mass black holes in star clusters. But there are very, very few that we know of, because they are normally unbelievably quiet and very hard to detect and energy bursts from encountering stars being shredded happen so rarely.”
Observing the State of Balance
Looking at the size of the flare that it emits, scientists could discover the size of the black hole. This flare reaches a state of balance when the gravitational forces of the black hole pull the star inside, and outside, it extends equal radiation. After the black hole destroys a star that is too close to it, it then consumes most of its debris. The remains from the stars heat up, creating a flare that looks differently, according to the type of the black hole.
Astrophysicist Tal Alexander explains how they could discover mid-sized black holes:
“The ultimate way of finding and identifying intermediate-mass black holes is not by emission of light, but by the emission of gravitational waves.”
Small black holes weight 5-10 times our sun’s mass and supermassive black holes weigh millions or billions more than our sun. Intermediate-mass black holes are believed to weight somewhere between 100 and 100,000 solar masses.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.