Astronomers find evidence for thousands of black holes near galaxy center

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The uncertainty of science: Using data from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, astronomers have found evidence suggesting that thousands of stellar-mass black holes might exist circling Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star), the super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Essentially, they found a dozen likely black hole candidates in what they think are X-ray binaries system. From this they extrapolate the number of potential stellar-massed black holes at the center of the galaxy. However,

While the authors strongly favor the black hole explanation, they cannot rule out the possibility that up to about half of the observed dozen sources are from a population of millisecond pulsars, i.e., very rapidly rotating neutron stars with strong magnetic fields.

In other words, this conclusion is very uncertain. Nonetheless, even if half of their candidates are not stellar-mass black holes, the results do suggest that there are a very large number of black holes circling Sagittarius A*. Using this information astronomers will be able to better refine their theories on the formation process for such super-massive black holes.


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