Scientists predicted that every galaxy hosts a supermassive black hole at its center. Furthermore, most galaxies are surrounded by a sizeable population of smaller black holes. A recent study published by Charles Hailey, an astrophysicist at Columbia University, proved all these theories for the first time. Hailey and his team scrutinized the data of past 12 years compiled by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, an orbiting spacecraft that detects high-energy radiation emitted by hot objects near black holes. They observed x-ray emissions collected from the surrounding regions of Sagittarius A* (Sag A*), the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the center of the Milky Way. After a detailed study the team concluded that there are at least a dozen of black holes neighboring Sag A*.
According to Hailey, the data is a proof of a decade-old prediction that large number of black holes should orbit around a SMBH. For years, there were very less number of credible evidences to support such claims. However, now, it is proved that at least 13 black holes swarm around a SMBH. Furthermore, scientist concluded that there must be about 10,000 isolated black holes and 300–500 binary black hole systems within the range of three light-years from Sag A*.
Hailey explained, “Milky Way is the best test object to solve the mysteries of black holes because smaller black holes surrounding SMBHs in other galaxies are too far away, and way too close to their galactic centers to observe with our current technology.”
Detecting a black hole is difficult and complicated than detecting a long-distant planet or a star. Black holes are named black for a reason, since even a single ray of light is dragged back by it. According to Hailey, it is easy to detect a black hole if it has a star as a neighbor. The gases from the companion star makes a disk around the black hole, which emits X-rays that can be detected to study the behavior of black holes. The study solved several questions regarding black holes and the most exciting topic, gravitation field. However, the discovery of a cluster of black holes rose a question whether they will eat of our galaxy or not.
It is true that the newly-found SMBH is about 1.4 million times the size of our sun, and possess potential to tear the solar systems apart and consume them to add its mass. However, it will take at least several billion more years for this massive black hole to tear our sun and other planet systems. A black hole is just a massive mass in a compact space, which will keep things orbiting around itself. For instance, if one could replace our sun with a black hole of the same mass, nothing would change except life on the earth will cease to exist without the sun’s heat. However, if some system collides with a SMBH, it will get dragged in it, and will be lost forever. Moreover, the cluster of black holes is more than 25,000 light years away from us, which makes the chances of collision extremely rare. Therefore, for the next couple of billions of years, our planet is safe from the “gangs of black holes”.