Supermassive Black Hole Found Lurking In A Distant Dwarf Galaxy

Thursday, 16 August 2018 - 10:48AM
Black Holes
Thursday, 16 August 2018 - 10:48AM
Supermassive Black Hole Found Lurking In A Distant Dwarf Galaxy
< >
Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
They say big things come in small packages, right? Astronomers didn't think that sentiment would apply to a small package like Fornax UCD3-an ultracompact dwarf galaxy around 70 million light years from Earth-and they surely did not expect the big thing to be a supermassive black hole (SMBH) hiding out near the tiny galaxy's center.

According to Astronomy.com, SMBHs (like the one 26,000 light years away) are typically found in large galaxies like our own, while smaller galaxies tend to have what are known as intermediate black holes at their centers. That's why astronomers at Lomonosov Moscow State University were surprised when, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO) and the Fibre Large Array Multi Element Spectrograph (FLAMES), they detected the 3.5 million solar masses black hole by monitoring how quickly the stars were moving around the galaxy. For comparison's sake, the SMBH in UCD3 is believed to be three quarters of the size of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way (Sagittarius A*), even though our galaxy is 500 times larger (300 versus 150,000 light years across, respectively) with hundreds of billions more stars. 

The research, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, makes it clear that the astronomers are sharing conclusions based on deductions from the data. "To be able to say with complete assurance that this hypothesis is correct, we need to discover more supermassive black holes in ultracompact dwarf," lead author Anton Afanasiev said in a statement. The first ultracompact dwarf galaxies were discovered only two decades ago, so there is still a lot that scientists don't yet know about them, including how the galaxies are formed or how a supermassive black hole could end up at the center of one.


Science
Space
Black Holes