NASA astronomers have discovered the best evidence for a black hole of an elusive class known as “intermediate-mass,” which betrayed its existence by tearing apart a wayward star that passed too close. Weighing around 50,000 times the mass of our Sun, the black hole is smaller than the supermassive black holes that are found at the cores of large galaxies, but larger than stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of a massive star. Read more for two videos and additional information.
These mid-sized black holes are a long-sought “missing link” in black hole evolution, and while there have been a few other intermediate-mass black holes (IMBH) candidates, researchers consider these new observations the strongest evidence yet. It took the combined power of two X-ray observatories and the NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to uncover these elusive cosmic entities.
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Intermediate-mass black holes are very elusive objects, and so it is critical to carefully consider and rule out alternative explanations for each candidate. That is what Hubble has allowed us to do for our candidate,” said Dacheng Lin of the University of New Hampshire, principal investigator of the study. The results are published on March 31, 2020, in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.