(ORDO NEWS) — In the 1930s, astrophysicists speculated that at the end of their life cycle, particularly massive stars would collapse, leaving behind a remnant of infinite mass and density.
As a proposed solution to Einstein’s field equations, these objects became known as “black holes”.
By the 1960s, astronomers began to infer the existence of these objects based on the observed effects they had on nearby objects and their environment.
Despite improvements in instrumentation and interferometry (which led to the first images of M87 and Sagittarius A*), the study of black holes still relies on indirect methods.
In a recent study, a group of Japanese researchers discovered an unusual cloud of gas that appears to have been elongated by the massive, compact object it orbits.
Since there are no massive stars in its vicinity, scientists hypothesize that the cloud (nicknamed “Tadpole” because of its shape) is orbiting a black hole about 27,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.
He was joined by astrophysicists and engineers from SFST, the Institute of Science and Technology of Technology (Kio University), the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), the University of Kanagawa, and the Astronomy Center of Ibaraki University.
An article describing their results was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The team used the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope at the East Asia Observatory and NAOJ’s 45-meter Nobeyama Radio Telescope to observe a tadpole-shaped cloud of molecular gas.
They noted that the cloud is unique due to its characteristic head-tail structure, position and speed.
Based on its kinematics and changes in the intensity of the lines along its orbit, the team determined that it was the effect of a black hole.
They were also able to limit its mass, which they estimate is 1 million times the mass of our Sun.
The presence of a black hole about four times as massive as Sgr A* and located close to where Sgr A* is (25,640 light-years away) raises many interesting questions.
In the near future, the team plans to look for new evidence of a black hole at the gravitational center of Tadpole’s orbit.
These studies may lead to some major discoveries. For example, could this object ever merge with Sgr A*? Such an event would cause the black hole at the center of the Milky Way to become 20% more massive.
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