Astronomers have stated that they have discovered a newfound cosmic object which may be a long-sought missing link that could help flesh out the black hole family tree.
Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center have stated that the newly discovered cosmic object may help provide answers to some long-standing questions about how black holes evolve and influence their surroundings.
Mar Mezcua, a postdoctoral researcher, currently at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the lead author of the study, said, “In paleontology, the discovery of certain fossils can help scientists fill in the evolutionary gaps between different dinosaurs. We do the same thing in astronomy, but we often have to ‘dig’ up our discoveries in galaxies that are millions of light-years away.”
The object in analysis is called NGC 2276-3c, which is located in an arm of the spiral galaxy NGC 2276. It is about 100 million light-years from Earth. NGC 2276-3c appears to be what astronomers call an ‘intermediate-mass black hole’ (IMBH).
In their study, the researchers observed NGC 2276-3c at almost the same time in X-rays with Chandra and in radio waves with the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Network. The X-ray and radio data, along with an observed relation between radio and X-ray luminosities for sources powered by black holes, were used to estimate the black hole’s mass. A mass of about 50,000 times that of the Sun was obtained, placing it in the range of IMBHs.
They discovered that NGC 2276-3c has traits similar to both stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes. They stated that this object helps tie the whole black hole family together. They also found that about five to fifteen solar masses worth of stars are forming each year in NGC 2276. This high rate of star formation may have been triggered by a collision with a dwarf galaxy, supporting the merger idea for the IMBH’s origin.
The findings were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.