Confronted with the existence of only two categories of black holes in space ~ small and super-massive ~ astrophysicists have long speculated there must be something in between.
And apparently they were right.
According to Wired magazine, astrophysicists recently identified what appears to be the first-ever medium-sized black hole, with a mass at least 500 times that of our Sun. Researchers from the Centre d’Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in France detected the middling hole in a galaxy about 290 million light-years from Earth.
The discovery may shed some light on the origins of super-sized black holes like the one at the center of our own galaxy. These astral heavyweights top out at several million to several billion times the mass of the Sun, but their origin remains a mystery.
Small black holes, between three and 20 times the mass of the sun, are created when big stars collapse and leave behind a gravitational pull strong enough to block nearby light rays. Researchers have speculated that super-massive black holes result from the successive fusion of many smaller black holes. But without finding evidence of a medium-size hole, it was a tough theory to prove.
The new discovery is the most convincing evidence to date that medium black holes exist. Using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope, the researchers identified a radiation source that gives off X-rays 260 million times brighter than the radiation of the Sun.