THE BLACK HOLE BESTIARY

As with many other ce­les­tial bod­ies, black holes can be split into classes

Sky at Night Magazine - - SKILLS -

1 Minia­ture black holes

Still hy­po­thet­i­cal, these black holes have a mass smaller than the Sun. They were first pro­posed by Stephen Hawk­ing in 1971, who sug­gested they may have formed in the early Uni­verse. Some ex­perts claimed minia­ture black holes might ap­pear in the col­li­sions cre­ated by the Large Hadron Col­lider, but none have been de­tected so far.

3 In­ter­me­di­ate mass black holes

Rang­ing from 100 to 100,000 so­lar masses, only a hand­ful of these black holes have been dis­cov­ered. They have been pro­posed as the seeds of su­per­mas­sive black holes. A Ja­panese team re­cently an­nounced find­ing one close to the Milky Way’s own su­per­mas­sive black hole, adding fuel to the idea that these ti­tans are formed by the merger of their smaller cousins.

2 Stel­lar-mass black holes

These black holes, be­tween about 4 and 100 so­lar masses, are thought to be the most abun­dant of the four classes. Formed from the core-col­lapse of mas­sive stars at the end of their lives, the near­est known one is V616 Mono­cero­tis. It is lo­cated about 3,000 lightyears away, and is be­tween 9-13 times the mass of the Sun.

4 Su­per­mas­sive black holes

These can be any­where from be­tween 100,000 and 50 bil­lion times the mass of the Sun. They ex­ist at the heart of most large gal­ax­ies; even the Milky Way has one, Sgr A*. Its 1974 dis­cov­er­ers, Bruce Bal­ick and Robert Brown, added an as­ter­isk to sig­nify the dis­cov­ery was ‘ex­cit­ing’. Sgr A* is 4.1 mil­lion times more mas­sive than the Sun.

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