Supersized black hole discovery forces universal rethink

Apr 10, 2016

Photo credit: Dimitar Todorov/Alamy

By Nicola Davis

Our universe could be riddled with monster black holes, new research has suggested.

The revelation comes after a black hole with a mass of 17bn suns was found in a large, virtually isolated galaxy 200m light years away.

Black holes are referred to as “supermassive” if they have masses of millions or billions of times more than the sun. Supermassive black holes with masses of more than 10bn suns have previously been found at the heart of large galaxies located in dense clusters in the universe. But this is the first time astronomers have found such an object lurking at the centre of a large galaxy in a relatively empty area of the universe.

“We didn’t expect to see such a huge black hole in a small place,” said Professor Chung-Pei Ma, an author of the study from the University of California, Berkeley.

That, she added, opens up an intriguing possibility. With such galaxies more common than rich clusters, such supermassive black holes could be rife.

“What this is saying is that you don’t need these galaxy clusters to grow very massive black holes,” says Professor Poshak Gandhi of the University of Southampton, who was not involved in the study. “That throws a wrench in the works of our understanding of how these monster black holes form – it throws the field wide open.”


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8 comments on “Supersized black hole discovery forces universal rethink

  • David1 #1
    Apr 12, 2016 at 4:32 am

    So, was this black hole the product of a supermassive sun, then….?

    It was probably the product of a multitude of suns and possibly the merging black holes of colliding galaxies.

    The the massive gravity of black holes at the centres of large galaxies regularly tears apart and sucks in nearby stars.

    @OP – But this is the first time astronomers have found such an object lurking at the centre of a large galaxy in a relatively empty area of the universe.

    The point made in the OP, is that there do not seem to be many stars or much matter to suck in near this one!

    Maybe it came from somewhere else, after swinging around something similar.



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  • This baby might not have been a collapsed super-sized sun, it (whatever ‘it’ actually is) probably began as the size of a pin head and over billions of years gradually sucked everything into itself as whirlpools tend to do and now that there’s nothing left for it to consume it will eventually die as all things must do. Anyway no one has ever seen a sun or galactic body being sucked into a black hole so I can only assume that much of our postulations are great big guesses which too will eventually die for something else to replace. If this is not to be believed then ‘the big bang’ isn’t to be neither. But who knows eh? Certainly not me…



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  • Joseph #3
    Apr 13, 2016 at 5:38 am

    This baby might not have been a collapsed super-sized sun, it (whatever ‘it’ actually is) probably began as the size of a pin head and over billions of years gradually sucked everything into itself as whirlpools tend to do and now that there’s nothing left for it to consume

    Black holes begin as collapsed stars, but then continue to grow by dragging in surrounding material.

    Anyway no one has ever seen a sun or galactic body being sucked into a black hole so I can only assume that much of our postulations are great big guesses

    Actually we now have the technology to make these observations.

    http://www.futurity.org/black-hole-star-1033712/

    Watch this black hole rip apart a star – Video.

    Astronomers caught a black hole tearing apart a star in the center of a galaxy about 290 million light years away from Earth.

    The team used a trio of orbiting observatories that includes NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray-Burst Explorer to gather the data. They say the results offer an extraordinary opportunity to understand the extreme environment and events around a black hole.



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  • Joseph #3
    Apr 13, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Anyway no one has ever seen a sun or galactic body being sucked into a black hole so I can only assume that much of our postulations are great big guesses which too will eventually die for something else to replace.

    Assumption is a very poor substitute for research!

    If this is not to be believed then ‘the big bang’ isn’t to be neither.

    The Big Bang is a cosmic explosion not a gravitational sink-hole.

    But who knows eh? Certainly not me…

    You can fix your lack of knowledge, by studying the evidence available from those who do know.

    http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/17765/20151026/black-holes-eating-stars-new-study-shows-intense-gravity-force.htm

    Black Holes Eating Stars: New Study Shows Intense Gravity Force at Work

    For this research, the team used three orbiting observatories, including NASA’s Swift Gamma-ray-Burst Explorer, to rake in data, according to a release.

    “Swift is uniquely equipped to make rapid-response observations to fast-breaking events throughout the universe,” John Nousek, who directs mission operations for Swift and teaches astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, said in the release.” This event occurred near a supermassive black hole estimated to weigh a few million times the mass of the Sun.

    Stars that move too near to a black hole can be sucked into its fierce gravity and be ripped apart by its tides. This is called a “tidal disruption,” as a release noted. As a result, debris from the star is thrown outward at a fast rate, then the rest of the star falls toward the black hole. This results in X-ray flares that can persist for a few years, the release noted.

    The other data-collectors for the study were NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, and the ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA XMM-Newton observatory. They gathered part of the data during the tidal disruption event called ASASSN-14li that was first noted in November 2014, noted the release.

    In a tidal disruption, the star remains are pulled toward the black hole after the star is broken apart. As the debris heats up, it generates a powerful X-ray light. Right after that, the light decreases, the material falls past the black hole’s “event horizon,” a point at which no light can escape, the release observed.



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  • an object lurking

    @A4D

    Could this, or any other scenario, come into play of Hawking’s (and partner) idea to send laser “fueled” craft to Andromeda?

    I’m thinking of Simpson’s episode where Homer releases a small fish, only to be immediately eaten by a larger fish – D’oh.



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  • bonnie2 #6
    Apr 13, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Could this, or any other scenario, come into play of Hawking’s (and partner) idea to send laser “fueled” craft to Andromeda?

    I think we will have to wait for Andromeda to come to us in 4 to 6 billion years time. Any laser fuelled inter-stellar craft will be to nearby stars.



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  • This video shows the formation of a black hole – not a super massive black hole.

    http://www.space.com/25863-neutron-stars-merge-black-hole-video.html

    An amazing new NASA video shows two super-dense neutron stars tearing each other apart in a cataclysmic cosmic merger that ultimately forms a black hole.

    The neutron star collision video, which was produced by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is a supercomputer simulation. It starts off with two neutron stars — the city-size, dense remnants of a violent supernova explosion — separated by about 11 miles (18 kilometers), NASA officials said. One object contains about 1.7 times the mass of our sun, while the other weighs in at 1.4 solar masses.

    The two neutron stars spiral toward each other, deforming. As they get closer and closer to each other, the bigger stellar remnant crushes the smaller one, causing it to erupt and form a spiral arm around the larger neutron star, according to NASA.
    “At 13 milliseconds, the more massive star has accumulated too much mass to support it against gravity and collapses, and a new black hole is born,” NASA officials said in a statement. “The black hole’s event horizon — its point of no return — is shown by the gray sphere. While most of the matter from both neutron stars will fall into the black hole, some of the less-dense, faster-moving matter manages to orbit around it, quickly forming a large and rapidly rotating torus.”




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