Astronomers have found a black hole where few thought they could ever exist, inside a globular star cluster. The finding has broad implications for the dynamics of stars clusters and also for the existence of a still-speculative new class of black holes called ‘intermediate-mass’ black holes.
The new finding provides the first convincing evidence that some black hole might not only survive but grow and flourish in globular clusters. What has astonished astronomers is how quickly the black hole was found.
“We were preparing for a long, systematic search of thousands of globular clusters with the hope of finding just one black hole,” said Tom Maccarone of the University of Southampton in England. “But bingo, we found one as soon as we started the search. It was only the second globular cluster we looked at.”
Scientists say there are two main classes of black holes. Supermassive black holes containing the mass of millions to billions of suns are found in the core of most galaxies, including our own. A quasar is one kind of supermassive black hole. Stellar-size black holes contain the mass of about ten suns. These are created from the collapsed core of massive stars. Our galaxy likely contains millions of these black holes.
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