Vivienne Baldassare.

Intermediate-mass black holes are notoriously hard to find but a new study indicates there may be some at the center of dense, star clusters located throughout the universe.

“One of the biggest open questions in black hole astrophysics right now is how do black holes form that are between the size of a stellar mass black hole and a supermassive black hole,” said Vivienne Baldassare, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washington State University. “Most of the theories for their formation rely on conditions that are found only in the very early universe. We wanted to test another theory that says they can form throughout cosmic time in these really dense star clusters.”

The research team’s work not only suggests that black holes can form in nuclear star clusters but also provides a mechanism by which intermediate-sized black holes could potentially form throughout cosmic time rather than just during the first few billion years of the universe.

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