Evidence that the heavens house a previously unknown type of black hole was reported by scientists yesterday. Data from NASAs Chandra X-Ray Observatory revealed a hole (right) some 600 light-years from the center of the starburst galaxy M82. The brightness of the x-ray source indicates that this moon-size hole has the mass of at least 500 suns, making it intermediate between stellar black holes and the supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies. "This opens a whole new field of research," said Martin Ward, a lead author on one of three papers to be published on the subject. "No one was sure that such black holes existed, especially outside the centers of galaxies."

Earlier data from the Roentgen Satellite and the Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics had suggested that M82 might contain a large black hole outside its nucleus, but the Chandra results seal the deal. The new object might have resulted from the collapse of a "hyperstar" or the growth of a smaller black hole through mergers with others nearby.