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Chandra Science Highlight. Evidence for A Swarm of Black Holes in the Galactic Center. Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Image.

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chandra science highlight
Chandra Science Highlight

Evidence for A Swarm of Black Holes in the Galactic Center

Chandra X-ray Observatory ACIS Image

  • The strong X-ray variability of the four sources in the image is indicative of an X-ray binary system where a black hole or neutron star is pulling matter from a nearby companion star.
  • Base on the numbers of X-ray sources found in a larger region around Sgr A* (70 light years in diameter), astronomers expected that there was only a 20 percent chance that one X-ray binary would be detected within a three-light-year radius.
  • The observed high concentration of X-ray binaries is strong circumstantial evidence that 10,000 or more stellar black holes and neutron stars have gathered in the center of the Galaxy.
  • The swarm likely formed as stellar-mass black holes, and to a lesser extent, neutron stars, gradually sank toward the center of the Galaxy over the course of several billion years as a consequence of a process called dynamical friction.

Reference: M. Muno et al. 2004, astro-ph/0412492

Credit: NASA/CXC/UCLA/M. Muno et al.

January 2005

CXC operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory