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Galactic Models Challenged by Truly Supermassive Black Hole

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 11:15AM

Roughly 26,000 light years away rests the four million solar mass monster, the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy; Sagittarius A*. At that mass it represents just 0.1% of the Milky Way's total, which is a ratio shared by many other galaxies with their black holes. Recently though, researchers at Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the University of Texas at Austin have discovered a galaxy whose black hole is a whopping 14% of its total mass. That also puts it in the running for most massive black hole in the known Universe.

The galaxy, NGC 1277, is 220 million light years away and was examined as part of a study to explain the link between a black hole's and host galaxy's mass. Using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) the researchers have been searching for the most massive galaxies to analyze further, as measuring the mass of a black hole is time consuming. Luckily of those galaxies it identified as interesting, NGC 1277 had previously been observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, so the needed data already existed. Crunching the numbers revealed the black hole likely weighs in at around 17 billion solar masses.

This result may upend the current theories of galaxy formation, which all assume the 0.1% mass ratio is correct for all galaxies. Of course it is possible this galaxy is a fluke, but the researchers' survey has found others that may also counter the assumption. Either way though, how this galaxy formed is a question that needs to be answered.

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