A group of researchers detected starving black hole within pair of crashing galaxies a billion light-years away. The team noted that the supermassive black hole has 500 times less stellar companions than it should, and they are now working to solve the mystery.
Supermassive black holes feed on the stars and cosmic matter around them. They engulf as much as they can and release tons of cosmic radiation in return. But the recently detected supermassive black hole apparently is forced to follow a crash diet which could soon make it slightly less massive.
The pair of galaxies that are on the cusp of becoming one have two supermassive black holes at their cores. They also come with dense clouds of dust and gas and zillions of stars.
Spiral galaxies, which are some of the largest galaxies in the universe, are the hosts of the largest black holes in the visible universe. These dark denizens can have a mass that is 1 million to 1 billion larger than our sun’s, depending on the host galaxy’s size.
Scientists detected the anomaly when they looked at the merging galaxies more closely. They found that while one of the two supermassive black holes is well-fed, the other one looks rather emaciated. The starving star is deprived of the normal amount of neighboring stars it could use to feast on and maintain its weight.
Julie Comerford, lead author of a study on the new findings and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, unveiled her work Jan. 5 at the American Astronomical Society’s annual gathering. A research paper on the issue is slated to be available online in the coming weeks.
Comerford noted that the newly detected black hole is basically starved of stars. It should have had 500 times as much stellar neighbors than it currently has. The team is puzzled by the discovery and they are eager to learn what caused the unusual sight.
There are a few hypotheses. For instance, researchers said that it could just be a rare occurrence such as a black hole with an intermediate mass of up to 1 million times more than our star’s.
The research team underscored that there are many small-sized black holes across the sky, which are a few times heavier than the sun. But medium-sized black holes are indeed an extremely rare sight. So, far scientists have only theorized about the existence of such space objects since they lack physical evidence.
A second hypothesis could be linked to the nature of the galaxy that host the emaciated black hole. Scientists suspect that it may be a dwarf galaxy, so the phenomenon would be common in its case. But that’s just a theory which hasn’t been confirmed yet.
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