Oversized Black Hole Confounds Scientists

Oversized Black Hole Confounds Scientists

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Phenomenal cosmic power! Itty bitty living space.

Black holes, the cosmic objects with gravity so strong that not even light can escape, are believed to be at the center of most large galaxies. Likewise, the size of a black hole was thought to be proportional in some capacity to the size of its host galaxy. Until now, that is. A recent observation of galaxy NGC 1277, some 220 million light years away, has shaken up this belief by hosting a super massive black hole in a relatively tiny galaxy. Our own Milky Way galaxy is four times larger than NGC 1277, but the black hole at our distant neighbor's center is some 4,000 times larger than our own central black hole, and approximately 17 billion times the mass of our Sun. Ponder that one for a moment.

Given that their intense gravity doesn't allow light to escape, it is profoundly difficult to actually observe a black hole, so we are forced to derive information about them by measuring their influence on nearby stars. Scientists hunting for the universe's largest black hole found NGC 1277 and estimated that its central black hole was roughly the size of our entire solar system, and made up some 14% of the mass of the entire galaxy.

Until now, the prevailing thought was that such large black holes could only exist in larger galaxies, due to the theory of how they evolve in tandem with their host galaxy. Since black holes were thought to grow primarily by absorbing matter from their surroundings, it made sense that you would need a fairly high-mass galaxy to grow a super massive black hole. It is currently unclear how, exactly, a black hole this size formed within such a small galaxy, but scientists are already no doubt hard at work coming up with a viable explanation. "This galaxy seems to be very old," Dr. Van den Bosch told BBC, "So somehow this black hole grew very quickly a long time ago, but since then that galaxy has been sitting there not forming any new stars or anything else."

Source: BBC
Image: NASA

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So we've finally found Dick Cheney's real heart!

"So somehow this black hole grew very quickly a long time ago, but since then that galaxy has been sitting there not forming any new stars or anything else."

You know there might be a correlation there Doc. Perhaps maybe even a causation?

Mandatory song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBb-J0hcBQA

On-thread, I wonder how long it'll be before we make our own black holes in labs and use them as an energy source.
Fusion reactors are so 10 years ago ^^

Nothing amazing here folks! My stomach turns into the same thing after a 50 pack of White Castle.

But things like this really do astound me. The amount of power of a black hole is just.... Unfathomable to my tiny meat brain.

"There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
~Douglas Adams

kouriichi:

But things like this really do astound me. The amount of power of a black hole is just.... Unfathomable to my tiny meat brain.

Yeah, sometimes the gravity of their implications are just beyond our grasps.

Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

RejjeN:
Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. I guess the outer-most stars would be at a stable orbit, but couldn't everything else eventually be absorbed by it? And if that galaxy is so old... mind, I'm no astronomer.

This article fails to note whether the galaxy is spiral, elliptical, or irregular, and important note to determine the approximate age of the galaxy. If it was irregular, I'd guess a trick of gravity robbed the host of most of its stars after a run in with a couple other galaxies, or perhaps the interactions between a couple black holes were strong enough that most of the stars were kicked off when galaxies came together and the black holes merged.

RejjeN:
Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

Not something i'm worried about. where we are in our galaxy, we do not feel any real gravitational influence from the black hole at the galactic center-- we feel the influence from all the stuff between us and the center.

My guess is that galaxy used to be much larger, but the black hole has since absorbed most of it, adding its mass to its own.

I wondered if maybe black holes are interconnections. So it reaches into different spacetime continua simultaneously and someplace else it had lots of stars served as fast food to it. Not necessarily in the same brane.

17 Billion Times the mass of our Sun... That is just something I can't comprehend.

DVS BSTrD:
You know there might be a correlation there Doc. Perhaps maybe even a causation?

Well, yeah, it's pretty common that a sufficiently large black hole apparently starts preventing star formation. The theory goes that once the jets from matter falling into the black hole are hot enough, the gas in the surrounding galaxy gets too hot to form new stars.

Doesn't do squat to explain how it got there in the first place.

Yo mamas' so fat, she won't fit into the new big black hole!

I have nothing to comment here, to time to go exploring!

Obviously people, we just found the universe's butthole.

Seems to me the logical answer (or at least theory) would be that the galaxy in question - being very old as stated in the quote from the article - could have been very densely packed and that the black hole has already had enough time to devour a good portion of it, allowing it to grow to such a massive state.

RJ 17:
Seems to me the logical answer (or at least theory) would be that the galaxy in question - being very old as stated in the quote from the article - could have been very densely packed and that the black hole has already had enough time to devour a good portion of it, allowing it to grow to such a massive state.

yea i do not see any grand mystery here, obviously his thing fed and fed well at some point and time, probably long long before any humans were around to see any light from it. Cosmic collisions and etc probably led to this thing getting so massive and swallowing other black holes.

It's highly unlikely that the black hole simply absorbed the rest of the stars in the galaxy. It's no more difficult to get into a stable orbit around a black hole than it is to get into orbit around any object, and it doesn't matter whether the mass of a galaxy is concentrated at the centre or more spread out, because to an object outside that spread, the two behave identically from a gravitational perspective, so long as the spread is even.

As for collisions with another galaxy, when galaxies collide, the chance of stars and black holes actually hitting each other is really really small. You might think this black hole is big, but it's only 0.005 lightyears across, which is minuscule compared to the separation between stars.

If the answer was this simple, do you think the astrophysicists would have a problem with it? These guys aren't idiots, if there were a simple answer, they'd have spotted it.

Souplex:
My guess is that galaxy used to be much larger, but the black hole has since absorbed most of it, adding its mass to its own.

That's what I was thinking, the black hole was a pig and ate all its neighbours, leaving it forever alone.

Black hole expanded with mass it sucked. evnetually in the end of its life black hole eats whole galaxy. what we see here, is a big black hole that has ate half of the galaxy, maknig the remaining part look proportionately small. it is likely that "soon" the black hole will finish eating whole galaxy and if it has enough mass, explode and create new stars, if not, then its going to attempt to such neighboars.
what is worrying, is that explosion is very likely to hit our galaxy as well, and thats not nice believe me.

P.S. "Soon" in space terms means millions of years.

It's highly unlikely that the black hole simply absorbed the rest of the stars in the galaxy. It's no more difficult to get into a stable orbit around a black hole than it is to get into orbit around any object,

excelt that once a passing asteroid or whatever destabilizes your orbit, isntead of just drifting you get down into the black hole, and on your way destabilize other orbits that you drag with you. space is never static. sure its static for the period of our lifetimes, but were speaking billions of years here.

Then agian gravity in space just doesnt really work the way we expect. while our laws of physics are fine for our every day lives, when it comes to extremely small or extremely large mass, we start noticing that they dont really work this way. thati s not to say we must ignore them. their not perfect but thier the best we got.

thiosk:
This article fails to note whether the galaxy is spiral, elliptical, or irregular, and important note to determine the approximate age of the galaxy. If it was irregular, I'd guess a trick of gravity robbed the host of most of its stars after a run in with a couple other galaxies, or perhaps the interactions between a couple black holes were strong enough that most of the stars were kicked off when galaxies came together and the black holes merged.

RejjeN:
Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

Not something i'm worried about. where we are in our galaxy, we do not feel any real gravitational influence from the black hole at the galactic center-- we feel the influence from all the stuff between us and the center.

In the original letter they say it's lenticular.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7426/full/nature11592.html

Speaking of which, could you you please include a reference to the original report in future scientific posts?
I get that most people probably aren't interested in them, but it would be nice to be able to go directly to it.

So the black hole's to big?

If I had a dollar every time I heard that...

*cough* I mean, that is a very interesting astrological discovery! Very sciency! I AM INTRIGUED GREATLY BY THIS!

Skeleon:

RejjeN:
Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

Yeah, I was wondering about that, too. I guess the outer-most stars would be at a stable orbit, but couldn't everything else eventually be absorbed by it? And if that galaxy is so old... mind, I'm no astronomer.

I think the issue is that the blackhole wouldn't change the outer radius of the galaxy, which is how we tell it's size.

So even if this blackhole ate the rest of the galaxy, it was still a smallish galaxy to begin with due to it's small radius.

I do know that the outer radius of a galaxy doesn't shrink as the blackhole in the center expands (because of conservation of mass - the mass is the same, no matter how compact, so the gravity on the outer stars is the same) so I know that part is correct. I do not know how they measure the size of a galaxy - I assume it is the diameter or radius of the galaxy, but that's only a guess.

RejjeN:
Maybe it ate the rest of it's galaxy? O.o (Could imply that Black Holes eventually eat their galaxy, maybe they even grow so large they begin to interact and eventually it's just one galaxy-spanning black hole or BOOM, universe reset. It's a theory at least :P)

My thoughts exactly. Right down to the black hole assimilation and subsequent 'Big Bounce'.

Well, what do ya say NOW, Mr. Hawking? The rules have just changed again.

Strazdas:
Black hole expanded with mass it sucked. evnetually in the end of its life black hole eats whole galaxy. what we see here, is a big black hole that has ate half of the galaxy, maknig the remaining part look proportionately small. it is likely that "soon" the black hole will finish eating whole galaxy and if it has enough mass, explode and create new stars, if not, then its going to attempt to such neighboars.
what is worrying, is that explosion is very likely to hit our galaxy as well, and thats not nice believe me.

I don't think Black Holes explode, they evaporate.

Virtual particle/anti-particle pairs fizz into existence all the time, and very quickly rejoin and cancel each other out again.

Sometimes at the very edge of a Black Hole one of those pairs falls in, leaving the other to fly off into space. Thusly, to offset the existence of this virtual particle, the Black Hole loses that amount of mass from itself.

Over time, the offset of all these virtual particles causes the Black Hole to gradually lose mass, due to the other particles in this pair to flying off into space, in essence they're "taking" away the mass of the Black Hole with them as they go.

This is Hawking Radiation and explains why a Black Hole evaporates into nothingness, eventually.

 

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