Peculiar outbursts of X-rays coming from a black hole have provided evidence that it has a mass of about 10,000 Suns, which would place it in a possible new class of black holes. The timing and regularity of these outbursts, observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, make the object one of the best candidates yet for a so-called intermediate-mass black hole.
Scientists have strong evidence for the existence of stellar black holes that are about 10 times as massive as the Sun. They have also discovered that supermassive black holes with masses as large as billions of Suns exist in the centers of most galaxies. Recent evidence has suggested that a new class of black holes may exist between these extremes – intermediate-mass black holes with masses equal to thousands of Suns.
"It is important to verify the existence of intermediate-mass black holes, because they would bridge the gap between stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies," said Jifeng Liu of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and lead author on a paper describing their discoveries that appeared in the March 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Our observations don’t settle the debate, but the behavior of this object is strong evidence in favor of their existence."
Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
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