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Milky Way Shows Signs Of Its Second-Largest Black Hole

First Posted: Jan 15, 2016 02:42 PM EST

Astronomers may have detected the second-largest black hole in the Milky Way, according to a study led by the Keio University. The researchers found enigmatic gas cloud known as CO-0.40-0.22, which is located 200 light years away from the center of the Milky Way. The researchers made their observations with two radio telescopes, the Nobeyama 45-m Telescope in Japan and the ASTE Telescope in Chile.

The researchers carried out a detailed observation of CO-0.40-0.22, where their findings indicate that the cloud has an elliptical shape. The cloud has two components, one comprises of a compact, low density component that has a wide velocity dispersion of 100 km per second and a dense component extending 10 light years with a narrow velocity dispersion, according to the researchers.

"Considering the fact that no compact objects are seen in X-ray or infrared observations...as far as we know, the best candidate for the compact massive object is a black hole," Tomoharu Oka, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

There are about 100 million black holes in the Milky Way, however, only a dozen of them have been found through X-ray observations. A number of wide-velocity-dispersion compact clouds like CO-0.40-0.22 have been observed recently. The researchers believe that some of these clouds may contain potential black holes.

"Investigations of gas motion with radio telescopes may provide a complementary way to search for dark black holes," Oka said.

The findings of this study were published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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