Intermediate-Mass Black Hole FoundCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 13, 2012 02:24PM
Black holes are fairly well known about now, but there was once a time many people believed they did not exist. It was not until the Hubble Space Telescope was put into service that evidence of their existence was discovered. Since, then astronomers have confirmed the existence of stellar mass black holes, which are formed from massive stars collapsing in on themselves, and supermassive black holes that lie at the center of galaxies. Only intermediate-mass black holes have not been found, until now.
Researchers using CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array have confirmed the existence of an intermediate-mass black hole; the first confirmation of its kind. Intermediate-mass black holes fill the mass gap between stellar black holes, which are at most hundreds of solar masses, and supermassive black holes, which are always in the millions of solar masses and above. Scientists have believed these objects must exist for some time, if only to explain how supermassive black holes could form; by the merging of smaller stellar black holes and intermediate-mass black holes.
Named HLX-1, this black hole resides the galaxy ESO 243-49 and was first discovered in 2009. At 300 million light-years away, the black hole was only found because it is a Hyper-Luminous X-ray source (HLX), which indicates it must be a black hole or other massive object. The observations of CSIRO were able to show that there is no other explanation for the X-ray source than a black hole weighing in at 20,000 solar masses, or more.