UH Hilo alumni contribute to black hole discovery in the Milky Way

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UH Hilo alumni contribute to black hole discovery in the Milky Way

Illustration of stray black holes floating around a supermassive black hole at the Galactic center. Image courtesy of UH

A research team led by Japanese astronomers using data taken with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, have conducted detailed radio spectral observations of molecular gas around the nucleus of our Milky Way Galaxy, as reported by the University of Hawai‘i.

The team of researchers theorize that Stellar Mass Black Holes are causing two compact gas clouds towards the center of the Milky way to exhibit some highly unusual motions. The observations were taken over a period of months by telescope operators working for JCMT, which include UH alumni Callie Matulonis, Kevin Silva and Will Montgomerie.

These observations are particularly important due to the nature of these black holes. Despite being so abundant in our Galaxy—astronomers believe there may be well over 100 million stellar mass black holes in our own Galaxy—only 60 or so have been observed to date. Typically detections are made using x-rays; these observations only see the more “active” black holes, e.g. those in the process of consuming a nearby stellar neighbor. Being much smaller than the Super Massive Black Hole at the center of the Milky Way, which is about a million time more massive, makes these black holes harder to detect.

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope. Photo courtesy of UH

Japanese team member Shunya Takekawa said, “We expect that the number of black hole candidates will dramatically increase by applying research methods similar to this work.”

 

By | 2017-08-08T09:22:51+00:00 August 10th, 2017|0 Comments

About the Author:

Léo Azambuja, editor of For Kaua‘i, has won multiple journalism awards in the state of Hawai‘i, including investigative and enterprise reporting, spot news and feature writing, photojournalism and online reporting.

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