Little monster feeds bigger monster

Muir, Hazel
June 2003
New Scientist;6/21/2003, Vol. 178 Issue 2400, p24
There may be two giant black holes lurking in the middle of our galaxy, instead of just one. Astronomers reckon that a middleweight black hole, thousands of times heavier than the sun, is dragging young stars towards the monster black hole known to sit at our galaxy's centre. There is good evidence that most, if not all, large galaxies harbour a supermassive black hole. The one at the centre of the Milky Way is about three million times as massive as the sun. Astronomers believe that it prevents any new stars forming within three or four light years of it, because its gravity tears apart any big clouds of gas and dust, which are the raw material for star formation. But Brad Hansen of the University of California at Los Angeles, California, says there are young stars in a cluster less than 0.5 light years from the supermassive black hole. These stars are less than 10 million years old. Hansen and his colleague Milos Milosavljevic of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, say the most likely explanation is that these young stars formed in a cluster at a safe distance from the black hole, say 5 light years away or more. But the cluster contained a smaller black hole weighing between 1000 and 10,000 solar masses, and as the black hole was drawn towards its monstrous neighbour, it carried these stars with it.


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