It is already known that there’s a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Now researchers have found that there are thousands more black holes surrounding it.
According to the new study conducted by a team of astrophysicists from New York’s Columbia University, there are a dozen black holes gathered around Sagittarius A*, which is a supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
The latest findings support a decades-old theory regarding black holes that holds that the massive black hole at the core of a large galaxy is surrounded by thousands of smaller ones. Researchers have searched unsuccessfully for evidence to support the theory in the last two decades. The study results give strength to scientists’ speculations that black holes sink and accumulate in the center of galaxies.
“Everything you’d ever want to learn about the way big black holes interact with little black holes, you can learn by studying this distribution,” said Chuck Hailey, co-director of the Columbia Astrophysics Lab and lead author on the study.
For the purpose of the study, Hailey and his team decided to track down black hole “binaries” that are formed when a black hole captures a passing star and binds to it. They analyzed data collected by the space-based Chandra X-ray Observatory and observed the X-ray signatures of 12 black hole binaries within three light years of Sagittarius A*.
They made use of analysis and spatial distribution of already identified binary systems, to figure out that there are between 300 and 500 black hole-low mass binaries in the same region, along with around 10,000 isolated black holes around Sagittarius A*. The newly discovered black holes are within about 31 trillion kilometers of the supermassive black hole at the center.
The study findings have been published in the journal Nature published on April 4.