Scientists have spotted a huge black hole lurking at the middle of our own galaxy.
The supermassive black hole is sitting in the middle of the Milky Way and if confirmed would be the second biggest ever seen in our own neighbourhood. The discovery could help solve some of the central mysteries of black holes, giving us an unprecedented look at how such strange things form.
The object was spotted by scientists looking at a huge, toxic gas cloud that is swirling around near the middle of the galaxy. By looking at that, they saw a strange movement of gases that indicated a huge "compact object" was at its centre – which scientists say must have been a black hole.
Scientists have long agreed that extremely large galaxies like our own contain huge black holes that can be many billion times bigger than the sun, but they haven't been able to work out how that actually happens. But by managing to look at one right in our own solar system, astronomers hope to find out why.
Such large black holes – known as intermediate-mass black holes, or IMBHs – are thought to form when smaller black holes move together into bigger ones, which then in turn join up to create supermassive ones. But this is the first time that evidence of those middle, bigger ones have been found.
The discovery might one day allow for proof of generational relativity, a change that the scientists note would "make a considerable contribution to the progress of modern physics".
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies