A massive black hole has been found at the heart of the Milky Way

Astronomers hope it will offer clues as to how supermassive black holes form.

An enormous black hole with a mass that’s one hundred thousand times bigger than our Sun has been found hiding at the centre of the Milky Way.

Researchers, led by Tomoharu Oka from Keio University in Yokohama, Japan, believe it could provide a clue to how bigger ones, like supermassive black holes, form.

The black hole was observed indirectly using the Alma telescope in Chile.

The astronomers observed a “peculiar molecular cloud” called CO–0.40–0.22 and analysed the gas densities present in it.

Generic illustration of a black hole.
Stellar black holes form when the centre of a giant star collapses in upon itself (CoreyFord/Getty Images)

They concluded that it contained a very large “compact object” which was likely to be a black hole.

If the discovery is confirmed, it will be the second-largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way after the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*.

The size of the hole classifies it as an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH).

Black holes are formed when the centres of giant stars collapse in upon themselves.

The Milky Way.
The Milky Way (Den Belitsky/Milky Way)

It is widely accepted that supermassive black holes – that are 10 billion times bigger than the Sun – reside at the centres of galaxies, but we do not know how they form.

Researchers say this piece of puzzle could be solved if “black holes of a few hundred thousand solar masses exist as seeds for their more massive counterparts”.

The research is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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