NASA astronomers discovered Supermassive Black Hole weighing 17 billion Suns

Apr 8, 2016 09:09 IST

behemoth blackhole

The astronomers at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered a supermassive Black Hole which weighs about 17 billion times the mass of Sun.

It was discovered in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe and it may indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought.

The discovery was published on 6 April 2016 in the journal Nature.

The lead discoverer is Chung-Pei Ma, a University of California-Berkeley astronomer and head of the MASSIVE Survey, a study of the most massive galaxies and supermassive black holes in the local universe, whereas the lead author is Jens Thomas of the Max Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany.

Main finding of the discovery

• The newly discovered supersized black hole resides in the center of a massive elliptical galaxy, NGC 1600, located in a cosmic backwater, a small grouping of 20 or so galaxies.

• It is located about 200 million light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Eridanus.

• The amount of stars pushed away by this black hole equals 40 billion suns, comparable to ejecting the entire disk of our Milky Way galaxy.

• Unlike other galaxies, wherein the galaxy bulge is proportional to the mass of the black hole, galaxy NGC 1600 has a relatively sparse bulge in relation to the discovered black hole’s mass.

How the discovery was made?

The presence of the massive black hole was made through measuring the velocities of stars near it, which are strongly influenced by the gravity of the black hole. The velocity measurements give us an estimate of the black hole’s mass.

The velocity measurements were made by the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North 8-meter telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  GMOS spectroscopically dissected the light from the galaxy’s center, revealing stars within 3000 light-years of the core.

However, these stars were found to be moving in a straighter path away from the core suggesting that they had ventured closer to the center and had been slung away, most likely by the twin black holes.

This observation was supported by the images taken by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) of Hubble telescope. The NICMOS images revealed that the galaxy’s core was unusually faint, indicating a lack of stars close to the galactic center.

A star-depleted core distinguishes massive galaxies from standard elliptical galaxies, which are much brighter in their centers.

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