Astronomers have used NASA data to hunt down what just might be a conjoining of two black holes into a supermassive black hole, a massive entity that has been propelled across a faraway galaxy just as two galaxies merge into one larger galactic union of stars. Scientists are referring to the supermassive black hole as a “renegade” and note that it is 160 times more massive than the Sun.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes were employed to track down what could be a supermassive black hole that, unlike the customary stationary black holes that tend to inhabit the centers of most galaxies, seems to be moving at incredible speed across a galaxy located 3.9 billion light years from Earth. As the Daily Mail explained, since the supermassive black hole was created by the merging of two smaller black holes in colliding galaxies, it may have “recoiled,” sending it speeding through the faraway galaxy.
As explained by NASA: “Astronomers found this recoiling black hole candidate by sifting through X-ray and optical data for thousands of galaxies. First, they used Chandra observations to select galaxies that contain a bright X-ray source and were observed as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Bright X-ray emission is a common feature of supermassive black holes that are rapidly growing.”
The astronomers then used the Hubble Space Telescope to see if “these X-ray bright galaxies revealed two peaks near their center in the optical image.” The two peaks could mean that a duo of supermassive black holes might be present or that a recoiling black hole has drifted away from the center of the galaxy.
From NASA: “If those criteria were met, then the astronomers examined the SDSS spectra, which show how the amount of optical light varies with wavelength. If the researchers found telltale signatures in the spectra indicative of the presence of a supermassive black hole, they followed up with an even closer examination of those galaxies.”
After the intense research, scientists found that they had discovered a recoiling black hole candidate.
Scientists note that the recoil would have produced gravitational waves moving in the opposite direction of the recoiling — and merging — black holes. Such a recoil would have provided the impetus for the merging black holes to be sprung from the galaxy’s center, sending it shooting through the colliding galaxies that are gradually, relatively speaking, into one elliptical galaxy. According to NASA images of the distant galaxy, one of the bright “peaks” appears to be roughly 3,000 light years away from the bright “peak” at the galaxy’s center. The bright “peak” offset from the galactic center has the properties of a growing supermassive black hole.
The host galaxy of the possible recoiling black hole also exhibits evidence that there has been a disturbance in its outer reaches. This is an indication that two galaxies have collided in the recent past and are effecting a merger. And since supermassive black hole mergers are believed to occur when their host galaxies actually merge in a cosmic collision, the information derived from the NASA data supports the idea that a recoiling black hole is moving through the galaxy. The idea is also supported by computer simulations that show a higher rate of star formation in newly merging galaxies, simulations that are reflected in what is actually occurring in the distant galaxy, where stars are forming at an annual rate that is several hundred times the mass of the Sun.
Astronomers are excited by the find, hoping that the information gathered about the runaway supermassive black hole will produce a better understanding of the anomalies. The recoiling black hole research was published online by The Astrophysical Journal.
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