Massive Black Hole Being Ejected From Home Galaxy

Posted on June 5, 2012

Astronomers say a massive black hole is being ejected from its host galaxy at a speed of several million miles per hour. New observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory suggest the black hole collided and merged with another black hole and received a powerful recoil kick from gravitational wave radiation. The image above shows CID-42, the galaxy the researchers believe contains a massive black hole that is being ejected. You can view a larger image here.

Francesca Civano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who led the new study, says, "It's hard to believe that a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of the sun could be moved at all, let alone kicked out of a galaxy at enormous speed. But these new data support the idea that gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space first predicted by Albert Einstein but never detected directly -- can exert an extremely powerful force."

The astronomers say the ejection of a supermassive black hole from a galaxy in this manner is likely to be a rare event. However, it could mean there are many giant black holes roaming around undetected in the vast spaces between galaxies.

Study co-author Laura Blecha, also of CfA, says, "These black holes would be invisible to us, because they have consumed all of the gas surrounding them after being thrown out of their home galaxy."

A paper on the findings will appear in the June 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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