In a recent announcement, astronomers have stated that they have spotted a new supermassive black hole moving through space which seemed to have been shot out of its host galaxy.
Researchers that were watching a dwarf galaxy with the designation RCP 28, which sits roughly 7.35 billion light years from where our solar system sits, spotted an odd streak of light by using the Hubble telescope. This “streak” seems to be a conglomeration of stars that seems to be getting dragged out of their home galaxy by the highly intense gravitational force coming from a black hole.
This “runaway” black hole has been marked as the first of its kind to ever be seen and seems to have been fired out of its original galaxy.
“We found a thin line in a Hubble image that is pointing to the center of a galaxy,” explained the lead author of the new study, Professor Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University. “From a detailed analysis of the feature, we inferred that we are seeing a very massive black hole that was ejected from the galaxy, leaving a trail of gas and newly formed stars in its wake.”
This “stellar tail,” which follows behind the discovery, is close to 200,000 light-years long, close to two times the diameter of our own Milky way galaxy.
The newly spotted black hole is thought to be close to 20 million times more massive than our own Sun, and it is currently sprinting away from RCP 28 at a staggering rate of 3.5 million miles per hour, which is close to 4,500 times the speed of sound.
Black holes are celestial bodies in which matter has been so heavily condensed and concentrated to the point where not even light is able to escape the pull of its gravity — and because of that, black holes are close to impossible to watch directly, and are usually only seen because of their effect on other stars and nebulae in their vicinity.
Currently, physicists do not quite understand just how these supermassive black holes formed, but they are thought to play a crucial role in the formation of galaxies as basically all observed galaxies have one at their core, which their various stellar systems orbit. It is also unclear how such a massive object could be moved out of where it sits in the galactic core.
“The most likely scenario that explains everything we’ve seen is a slingshot, caused by a three-body interaction,’ stated Dokkum. “When three similar-mass bodies gravitationally interact, the interaction does not lead to a stable configuration but usually to the formation of a binary and the ejection of the third body. … Ejected supermassive black holes had been predicted for 50 years but none have been unambiguously seen. Most theorists think that there should be many out there.”