We have discovered a black hole unlike any other, and scientists don’t add up

Most of the black holes we have detected, using a variety of methods, fall into two mass ranges. There are black holes of stellar mass, up to about 100 times the mass of the Sun; and supermassive black holes, starting at a range about one million times the mass of the Sun. What we lack are intermediate-mass black holes. Where am I?

Recently a research group has found a very interesting globular cluster from this point of view; it is called B023-G078 and is located in the Andromeda galaxy. According to the study this is the most massive star cluster in the galaxy that is gravitationally linked with a clock of 6.2 million solar masses.

MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARYGetty Images

According to astronomers, at the center of the cluster is an intermediate-class black hole. By studying the metal content of the cluster, based on subtle signatures in the light it emits, they determined that it is about 10.5 billion years old, with similar metallicity to other stripped galactic nuclei in the Milky Way.

By studying the way stars move around the center of the cluster, the mass of the black hole that should be inside it can be calculated. This returned a result of approximately 91,000 solar masses.

“We are convinced of the presence of a single black hole of intermediate mass following the indications given by B023-G78; a stripped core, with the apparent compactness of the dark component,” they wrote in their article.

“Data with higher spatial resolution would place greater constraints on the nature of the central dark mass and give us more information. They should be a priority in the next era of extremely large telescopes.”

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