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Astronomers: A black hole weighing 8,200 solar masses likely sits at the center of the Milky Ways’ largest globular cluster

Omega Centauri
Click for original image.

By analyzing the motion of seven fast moving stars at the center of the globular cluster Omega Centauri, the largest such cluster in the Milky Way and located about 18,000 light years away, astronomers now think they have detected evidence of an intermediate-sized black hole weight at least 8,200 solar masses.

You can read the published paper here. [pdf] The picture of Omega Centauri to the right, reduced and sharpened to post here, was created from more than 500 images taken over two decades by the Hubble Space Telescope. The inset, figure 1b of the paper, shows those seven fast-moving stars in pink, each having an arrow indicating the distance they are expected to move in a 100 years. The dashed circle marks the region where the black hole is believed to reside, with the dark blue cross in its upper left quadrant the most likely position of the black hole based on calculations.

From the caption for the larger Omega Centauri Hubble image:

Omega Centauri is visible from Earth with the naked eye and is one of the favourite celestial objects for stargazers in the southern hemisphere. Although the cluster is 17 700 light-years away, lying just above the plane of the Milky Way, it appears almost as large as the full Moon when seen from a dark rural area.

Though such intermediate-sized black holes have been theorized as existing inside globular clusters, I think this is the first real evidence of one.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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  • Ken

    Thanks to the image processing power of today’s computers, simply put we are living in the most exciting time of astronomical investigation in human history.

  • Jeff

    Today’s Astronomy Picture Of The Day :

    (a site I visit daily, just before coming here…)

  • M. Murcek

    Above the plane of the Milky Way to a south of the equator observer.

    This stuff becomes confusing if you think about it too much.

    North ain’t necessarily up.

  • David Ross

    I understand this cluster is considered a dwarf galaxy which just happened to orbit inside this our galaxy. That there’s a galaxy-class ‘hole in there just adds to the evidence.

  • Duke DeLand

    Cannot wait to see profound impact of SCOTUS decision calling for daily counting of ballots in Georgia and comparing the vote numbers listed to the ballots cast. This should halt “extra” ballots appearing from thin air.

    Indeed if this is successful there will be many states adopting a similar rule.

  • tim ferrell

    how much does a “solar mass” weigh?

  • tim ferrel: The mass of our own star, the Sun.

  • Edward

    David Ross wrote: “I understand this cluster is considered a dwarf galaxy which just happened to orbit inside this our galaxy.
    I did not know that. We all learn something every day, and that is my something for the day. I’m going back to bed.
    Is that coincidental?
    tim ferrell asked: “how much does a ‘solar mass’ weigh?
    1.9885×10^30 kg
    4.3839×10^30 lb
    332,950 Earths

    Gee, with all those zeroes, adding four more seems less impressive than it did while reading Robert‘s post.

    Good news: the Sun is on a diet and is losing weight at a tremendous rate:

    By fusion, the sun “burns” about 564 million tons hydrogen per second, resulting in 559.7 million tons of helium. The loss of mass, about 4.3 million tons per second, is transformed into energy. But don’t worry, it’s only 0.0000000000000000002 percent of the sun’s entire mass.

    5×10^20 seconds, or around 16 trillion years, before it “burns” its last proton (maybe someone should verify that I correctly counted the number of zeroes and correctly converted the percent). My plan is to be somewhere else when that happens.

    Now I’m going back to bed.

  • North ain’t necessarily up.

    I bought an “upside-down” world map, just because. Click my name for the picture.

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