What evidence do we have for the existence of black holes?

Astronomers have found convincing evidence for a supermassive black hole in the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, the galaxy NGC 4258, the giant elliptical galaxy M87, and several others. Scientists verified the existence of the black holes by studying the speed of the clouds of gas orbiting those regions. In 1994, Hubble Space Telescope data measured the mass of an unseen object at the center of M87. Based on the motion of the material whirling about the center, the object is estimated to be about 3 billion times the mass of our Sun and appears to be concentrated into a space smaller than our solar system.

For many years, X-ray emissions from the double-star system Cygnus X-1 convinced many astronomers that the system contains a black hole. With more precise measurements available recently, the evidence for a black hole in Cygnus X-1 -- and about a dozen other systems -- is very strong.

Find out more from HubbleSite:

HubbleSite and STScI are not responsible for content found outside of hubblesite.org and stsci.edu

Return to question list for Exotic

Return to FAQ home