Outer space, despite humanity’s best efforts for thousands of years, has remained mostly a mystery. Sure, we’ve managed to learn a great deal of things about what’s going on in the Universe and how the great floating space rocks surrounding us work, but there’s still so much more left to learn.
Even worse, a huge amount of all the data we have on outer space could very well be false. The problem is that while we did manage to create instruments that allow us to look billions of light years away from Earth, we‘re learning our facts from a position with a very limited view – Earth.
After all, we might be running every single number correctly, but if there is a single outside influence causing a disturbance in our measurements, most of the things we know about outer space would be wrong. But we can’t get stuck on that, otherwise we would never get anything done.
One of the things that started being suspected and was more or less confirmed in recent years is that every galaxy might have a supermassive black hole at its center. The problem with measuring black holes is that we require for them to have sources of light in their vicinity, otherwise we can’t even detect them.
But as our technology progresses, so do our space-measuring capabilities. Using the relatively new ALMA telescope (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in the high deserts of Chile, scientists measured supermassive black hole in a new way, marking what could possibly a breakthrough in astrophysics.
Previously, measurements of this type had no way of being performed. Usually, dark gas and dust have no way of being detected unless directly between Earth and a source of light. Using ALMA’s huge array of over sixty antennas, researchers observed the particles near the black hole in millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.
Located some 73 million light years away from Earth, the NGC 1332 galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its center, just like the ones scientists suspect are present in the center of every galaxy (including our own). Using new technology and new ways of interpreting the collected data, the team of researchers determined that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1332 has a mass that is 660 million times greater than that of our sun.
This is huge news, as nobody even believed that black holes can grow to such a size. Usually, after reaching a certain size, the attrition disk breaks and stops feeding matter into the event horizon, stopping the black hole from growing any further. The black hole at the center of NGC 1332 is bigger than any other seen before.
Image source: Wikimedia
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