Astronomers theorize that a black hole forms when a massive object shrinks catastrophically under its own gravity, leaving only a gravitational field so strong that nothing escapes it. Astronomers must infer the existence of black holes, which are invisible, from their gravitational influence on the visible bodies surrounding them. For example, observations indicate that gas clouds in galaxy M87 are whirling unusually fast about the galaxy's center. Most astronomers believe that the large concentration of mass at the galaxy's center is a black hole whose gravity is causing the gas to whirl. A few skeptics have argued that the concentration of mass necessary to explain the speed of the whirling gas is not necessarily a black hole: the concentration in M87 might be a cluster of a billion or so dim stars.

The same hypothesis might have been applied to the galaxy NGC 4258, but the notion of such a cluster's existing in NGC 4258 was severely undermined when astronomers measured the speed of a ring of dust and gas rotating close to the galaxy's center. From its speed, they calculated that the core's density is more than 40 times the density estimated for any other galaxy. If the center of NGC 4258 were a star cluster, the stars would be so closely spaced that collisions between individual stars would have long ago torn the cluster apart.

The passage asserts which of the following about the existence of black holes?

Astronomers first speculated about the existence of black holes when they observed gas whirling around the center of a particular galaxy.

Evidence used to argue for the existence of black holes is indirect, coming from their presumed effects on other astronomical bodies.

Recent observations of certain astronomical bodies have offered proof.

A considerable body of evidence suggests the existence of black holes, even though their behavior is not completely consistent with the laws of physics.

Many astronomers are skeptical about certain recent evidence that has been used to argue for the existence of black holes.


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