NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Array) X-ray observatory was launched in June and already is providing important findings. My article in Nature, NuSTAR spies black holes in galactic web, details the finding of two possible intermediate-mass black holes in the nearby galaxy IC 342:
The image below shows the galaxy IC 342, with the two black holes displayed in false color magenta. For more information about the new observatory and the black holes, read the rest of the article at Nature.
It’s unclear whether the objects are unusually bright stellar-mass black holes or a long-sought missing link — black holes weighing between 500 and several thousand Suns, which would represent a bridge between the small black holes that pepper the Milky Way and the behemoths, millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun, that lie at the heart of many galaxies. A comparison of the energy emitted by the two bodies with X-rays known to be emitted by small black holes in the Milky Way could determine the true nature of the objects, [Principal Investigator Fiona] Harrison says.