Astronomers think NGC1313-1, the luminous X-ray source of galaxy NGC1313 shown above, could be a promising candidate for an intermediate-mass black hole.
The centre anchors of large galaxies like the Milky Way were formed by extremely dense, supermassive black holes by feeding on gas and dust or merging with other dense objects.
Astronomers have been searching for the origins of these black holes, which they reason must have also been … black holes.
So far, they have found many small ones, called “stellar mass”, with between 1 and 100 times the mass of the Sun compared to the supermassive black holes whose mass is the equivalent of hundreds of thousands to billions of Suns.
Intermediate-mass black holes – 100 to 100,000 solar masses – have been elusive so far, and even if found, the question remains, how did they form?
“What is fascinating, and why people have spent so much time trying to find these intermediate-mass black holes,” says Fiona Harrison, principal investigator for NASA’s NuSTAR mission, “is because they shed light on processes that happened in the early universe”.