Black holes are thought to reside at the center of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, and they hold important clues to the functioning of these giant planets. A group of researchers has now found a group of previously overlooked massive black holes in dwarf galaxies. Black holes are usually discovered when they are actively growing by consuming gas around them, causing them to glow intensely. Researchers believe that these black holes could provide insights into the journey of the supermassive black hole located at the center of the Milky Way.
The research, conducted by astronomers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) – Department of Physics and Astronomy in Chapel Hill, United States, is expected to shed light on the origin of our galaxy’s supermassive black hole.
As a giant spiral galaxy, the Milky Way is believed to have formed from the mergers of several smaller dwarf galaxies. But whether or not all dwarf galaxies contain a supermassive black hole. This has led to a gap in our understanding of how black holes and galaxies grow together.
The research, which was published in the Astrophysical Journal this week, helps fill that gap. It says that massive black holes are many times more common in dwarf galaxies than previously thought. However, they were difficult to detect because the radiation from supermassive black holes in dwarf galaxies competes with the light from abundant young stars.
“This finding really surprised me because these black holes were previously hiding in plain sight,” Mujda Polymera, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a statement.
Comparing black holes to fireflies, University of North Carolina Professor Sheila Kanaban, who is also a co-author on the study, said we only see black holes when they are lit up, just like fireflies, displaying lit holes. We have a reference to a number we can’t see.
The researchers came to their conclusion after conducting a thorough search for alternative explanations for these not black holes but only young stars.
Kanapan added that the black holes discovered by the researchers were the primary components of supermassive black holes such as those in the Milky Way.