Science News

Curated by RSF Research Staff

Black Hole Cluster

A cluster of black holes within one parsec - 20 trillion miles - of the central halo of our Milky Way galaxy has just been confirmed. This has long been predicted by theorists, but until now has never been confirmed!

Since the initial theoretical hypothesis and the subsequent surmounting evidence for the existence of black holes our understanding has drastically improved. However, black holes remain one of the most enigmatic celestial objects in the Universe. We now know that supermassive black holes are at the centre of every galaxy, primordial black holes could be the source of dark matter, and as recently discussed in an RSF article the oldest quasars are too massive to have formed from the standard model of black hole formation.

Although never detected, these black hole clusters have long been predicted to be present via black hole birth through the death of massive stars and/or via migration due to dynamical friction - the drag experienced by the motion through the sea of stars and dark matter etc. Interestingly, Haramein also predicts their presence in his generalized holographic fractal model of the universe in which the black holes making up the black hole cluster are in fact birthed from the central black hole which in turn produces the birth of stars.

A team of astronomers, led by Charles Hailey of Columbia University, used data from NASAs Chandra X-ray observatory to detect quiescent X-rays likely associated with low-mass X-ray binaries. These low mass X-ray binaries consist of a low mass star of approximately 1-2 solar masses and a compact object which can be confidently predicted to be a black hole based on the spectral range of the emitting X-rays. Dynamical friction predicts 20,000 black holes to cluster in the inner halo region of the galaxy. Hailey and his team have so far detected 12, of which half they are certain to be black holes. However, it is also generally assumed that for every black hole binary detected there will be a further 20 isolated black holes undetected, so Hailey and his team remain confident that they are indeed seeing the first black hole cluster.

Future studies to confirm these results, along with investigations of other galaxies will be very revealing and could have huge implications for our understanding of black hole formation.

Could these black hole clusters be possible sources of gravitational waves? Could their origin help solve the mystery of black hole formation? Maybe further analysis will reveal new insights to our understanding of galaxy dynamics and dark matter?

Amira Val Baker


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