A Supermassive Black Hole Is Missing, NASA Says

It's gotta be here somewhere!

12. 17. 20 by Victor Tangermann
NASA/Victor Tangermann
Image by NASA/Victor Tangermann

Astronomers have spotted a distant galaxy cluster without the expected supermassive black hole at its center — despite the fact that its mass should be somewhere between three and 100 billion times that of the Sun.

The black hole was theorized to be in the galaxy cluster Abell 2261, about 2.7 billion light years from Earth, according to observations made between 1999 and 2004, according to a NASA statement.

More recently, astronomers from West Virginia University used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to scope out the area — and couldn’t find the black hole.

Almost every large galaxy in the known universe contains a supermassive black hole. The more massive the galaxy, the more enormous the black hole. In fact, this particular black hole was predicted to be one of the largest on record.

Advertisement

To put the idea of something a hundred billion times the mass of the Sun into perspective, the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole is estimated to be only four million times the mass of the Sun.

But it’s missing. To explain that, scientists have put forward several explanations.

The first is that the black hole could have been ejected from its host galaxy as a result of two galaxies merging to create one even more massive galaxy, otherwise known as a “recoiling black hole.”

Alternatively, the two galaxies’ respective black holes could have merged into one even bigger supermassive black hole, creating a gigantic core at the center of the resulting mega-galaxy. While this phenomenon has yet to be directly observed involving black holes at such a scale, astronomers have observed mergers involving substantially smaller black holes.

Advertisement

In a paper set to be published in the journal American Astronomical Society, a team led by Sarah Burke-Spolaor from West Virginia University put forward two further possible explanations: either there simply isn’t a black hole there, or there is indeed a black hole that just isn’t active enough to produce any noticeable amounts of X-rays to show up in Chandra observations.

The scientists are hoping to use NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to have a closer look.

READ MORE: On the Hunt for a Missing Giant Black Hole [NASA]

More on supermassive black holes: Nobel Prize Winner on Falling Into a Black Hole: “I Would Not Want To”

Advertisement


Futurism Readers: Find out how much you could save by switching to solar power at UnderstandSolar.com. By signing up through this link, Futurism.com may receive a small commission.

Share This Article

Keep up.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter to keep in touch with the subjects shaping our future.
I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement and Privacy Policy

Advertisement

Copyright ©, Camden Media Inc All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Data Use Policy. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.