(ORDO NEWS) — A cloud of gas, named the Tadpole because of its shape, orbits a space devoid of any bright objects.
This suggests that the cloud is moving around a dark object, most likely a black hole, which is 100,000 times more massive than the Sun.
Future observations will help determine what is responsible for the shape and movement of the cloud.
A team of Japanese researchers led by Miyuki Kaneko of Keio University used data from the James Clark Maxwell Telescope and the 45-meter Nobeyama Radio Telescope to identify an unusual gas cloud about 27,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.
The curved shape of the molecular gas cloud strongly suggests that it is stretching as it orbits around a massive, compact object.
The only problem is that there are no bright objects at the center of the cloud’s orbit that could be massive enough to hold it gravitationally.
The best candidate for this massive, compact, invisible object is a black hole.
Since black holes do not emit light, they can only be detected when they interact with other objects.
This leaves astronomers in the dark about exactly how many black holes, and at what range of masses, might be lurking in the Milky Way.
The team now plans to use ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) to look for faint signs of a black hole or other object in the gravitational center of Tadpole’s orbit.
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