Astronomers Find Black Hole is 30 Times Larger Than Expected

Posted on October 3, 2015

Active Galactic Nucleus with jets of material coming from central black hole

The central supermassive black hole of a recently discovered galaxy is 30 times larger than what astronomers thought should be possible. The finding goes against current theories of galactic evolution. It was discovered by astronomers at Keele University and the University of Central Lancashire.

The black hole is located in SAGE0536AGN, a galaxy discovered using NASA's Spitzer space telescope in infrared light. The galaxy is thought to be 9 billion years old. It contains an active galaxy nucleus (AGN), which is described by Royal Astronomical Society astronomers as an "incredibly bright object resulting from the accretion of gas by a central supermassive black hole."

The black hole was confirmed by measuring the speed of the gas moving around it. The mass of the black hole was determined through observation of an emission line of hydrogen using the Southern African Large Telescope. The emission line is broadened through the Doppler Effect and the degree of broadening can be used to determine the mass of the black hole.

The black hole in SAGE0536AGN was found to be 350 million times the mass of the Sun. The mass of the galaxy itself is 25 billion solar masses, which is 70 times the mass of the black hole. Astronomers say it shouldn't be possible for a black hole to get this large in a galaxy of this size.

Dr. Jacco van Loon, an astrophysicist at Keele University and the lead author on the study, says in a statement, "Galaxies have a vast mass, and so do the black holes in their cores. This one though is really too big for its boots – it simply shouldn't be possible for it to be so large."

A research paper on the surprisingly massive black hole can be found here in the journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

NASA / Dana Berry / SkyWorks Digital