New research has found that it's not alone.
This theory makes sense based on our understanding of black holes and the formation of galaxies-according to everything we understand about the Milky Way, there's a lot of energetic, bright activity at the center of the galaxy, as stars are born, grow, and then die and rend themselves apart as they transform into black holes.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The center of our galaxy is teeming with black holes, sort of like a Times Square for odd super gravity objects, astronomers discovered. I asked her how many black holes you'd expect to see in a random, similarly sized patch of space someplace farther out. But they hadn't seen evidence of them in the Milky Way core until now. So looking for isolated black holes is not a smart way to find them either. It can be particularly tricky to distinguish between binary systems involving quiescent (minimally accreting) black holes and millisecond pulsars.
In the new study, Charles Hailey, an astrophysicist at Columbia University, and his colleagues scrutinized the past dozen years of data gathered by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, an orbiting craft whose instruments are created to detect high-energy radiation emitted by the immensely hot material surrounding exploded stars and near black holes. On the surface, this increases the amount of black holes that were previously found throughout the galaxy.
In the study, a team of astrophysicists led by researchers from Columbia University describe how they discovered 12 black holes within three light-years of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*)-the SMBH at the center of the Milky Way-using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
In order to prove the theory, the researchers began to look for black holes.
The astronomers were also careful not to be fooled by the many other intriguing X-ray-emitting objects at the galactic centre.
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Even though they only spotted a dozen the researchers extrapolated there must be 300 to 500 binary black hole systems and 10,000 isolated black holes around Sagittarius A. They form after the spectacular death of a massive star - about 10 times that of our own sun - a supernova explosion that can outshine the star's host galaxy. So there's still a lot of empty space and gas amid all those black holes.
For the first time astronomers have glimpsed a long-predicted population of black holes lurking at the heart of the Milky Way.
Stars form as gas and dust succumb to gravity and fusion is ignited.
Hailey explained that Sgr A* is surrounded by a halo of gas and dust that provides the ideal breeding ground for the birth of massive stars, which live, die and could turn into black holes there. Hailey and his colleagues went back through archived observations made by this telescope to look for evidence of black holes. Dominated by a monstrous black hole four million times the mass of the Sun, stars, white dwarfs, and smaller black holes surrounded by gas and dust. "Some of them were formed comparatively recently". "So you have to separate out the boring X-ray sources from the fun stuff-the black holes". "These objects also provide a unique laboratory for learning about how big black holes interact with little ones, because we can't readily study these processes in other, more distant galaxies".
It'll be very interesting to see what happens next with this research, and what more can be learned both about black holes and about the center of our galaxy, from this exciting study.
The team used special filters to sample particular wavelengths of light and specify the epochs in the history of the Universe the galaxies are from.