Supermassive Black Hole is Going, Going, GoneCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 8, 2012 09:26AM
Though a supermassive black hole weighing in at millions of times the mass of our sun would seem like the ultimate unmovable object, there are still some forces in the Universe that are greater. Some four billion light years away is the galaxy CID-42. It has been receiving attention for at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for some time as because it has two optical bright spots in it. Normally a galaxy will just have one bright spot at its core, but this one has that and a second that is removed from the center. Now observations by the Chandra Space Telescope, an X-ray observatory, suggest it is the galaxy's supermassive black hole being ejected.
The standing theory in cosmology is that at the center of every galaxy is a supermassive black hole. This particular galaxy appears to be losing its black hole though and the researchers believe it is because of a recent galactic collision. When two galaxies collide, their supermassive black holes may capture each other and eventually merge together. Though not directly observed yet, astrophysicists believe that such a merger would produce a massive blast of gravitational waves, which are like ripples in space-time. If this blast was not uniformly produced, but focused in one direction, it is possible the merged black hole would be launched away with tremendous force.
The key to this finding were the X-ray observations of Chandra. Black holes generate large amounts of X-rays, and when CID-42 is observed with that part of the spectrum, only one of the optical-bright spots lit up, and it was not the one at the center. Unless there is a great X-ray barrier in the way, the second bright spot is the black hole travelling through the gases of the galaxy, feeding as it goes, while the spot at the center is the massive cluster of stars normally found at the center of a galaxy.