Centre of Milky Way is teeming with black holes

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Some star-forming regions are found at the outer edge of the disk, and models of galaxy formation predict that the new stars will slowly increase the size of the Galaxy they reside in. Or so it was supposed until now because the accumulation of objects in the area confused astronomers trying to find out what happens in that key region of the galaxy.

"Finding evidence for a large number of black holes at the center of the Milky Way confirms a fundamental and major prediction of galactic dynamics", Hailey says.

Hailey and his team used Chandra data because black holes at the galactic center should be most visible via x-rays, produced when the black holes form a binary system with a low-mass star and feed on their captured companion. But when black holes pair up with companion stars and interact with them, this produces telltale X-ray signals. But that means that the remaining half at least must be binary systems involving black holes - a class that have much rarer outbursts (usually many decades between them) and properties generally similar to those seen in the study.

At the centre of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, about four million times the mass of our sun.

Although scientists cannot directly observe black holes with the technology we now posses, they can detect black holes by studying the matter around them.

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Thus far, efforts to locate black holes have centered around watching out for bursts of X-rays that are given off periodically as matter falls into their gaping maws. So looking for isolated black holes is not a smart way to find them either. "They would already have submerged their planets", Charles Hailey explained.

The find provides the first evidence for a long-held theory that the massive black hole at the core of every large galaxy should be surrounded by thousands of smaller ones, they wrote in the science journal Nature.

Black holes, which are vast amounts of matter asked into small areas, are typically ten times larger than our own sun but packed into an area roughly the diameter of NY city.

The discovery can also help refine our ideas of the freakish, rare binary systems that produce gravitational waves. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope allowed them to collect optical data, while the Spitzer and GALEX space telescopes gathered near-infrared and near-UV data, enabling them to see the motions and colors of the distant stars.

They calculated that the Milky Way, and other galaxies like it, are growing at around 500 meters per second.

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Astronomers poring over old x-ray observations have found signs of a dozen black holes in the inner circle of the Milky Way. Presumably black holes should be there as well, either born on the galactic center's doorstep from the deaths of massive stars or arriving via migration from farther out.

Our Milky Way Galaxy, which is approximately 100,000 light-years in diameter, may be getting even bigger, according to a study by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Universidad de La Laguna.

Hailey noted that despite the theory that thousands of black holes should be close to each other, relatively few of the celestial bodies have actually been discovered in the Milky Way. These types of black holes are referred to as black hole binaries.

"For me, you can kind of breathe a sigh of relief, that we really think we basically understand how things are happening at the centre of the galaxy".

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