A black and white photo of space shows the path away from the bright white dot

A potential supermassive black hole (lower left arrow) leaves a trail of stars (middle arrow) as it escapes from a galaxy (upper arrow).NASA/ESA/Pieter van Dokkum et al./Astrophysical Journal Letters 2023

  • A NASA Hubble image may show the first runaway supermassive black hole ever discovered.

  • A path that points to an object far from a galaxy that a black hole has ejected.

  • A rogue black hole can create a shock wave that creates a path to the new stars visible in the image.

The Hubble Space Telescope is still making first-of-its-kind discoveries after more than three decades in space. His latest? The first supermassive black hole observed has gone rogue from its own galaxy.

That’s what a team of astronomers suggests in a new study posted online. According to Peter van Dokum, an astrophysicist at Yale University who led the new research, the research has been peer-reviewed for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Even experts not involved in the research are excited about the team’s findings.

“The observations fit together with this scenario,” Manuela Campanelli, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the study but who created runaway black holes in her research, told Insider.

First possible image of a ‘rogue’ supermassive black hole

Two images show distant bright spot galaxies with a faint trail going down and to the left

A star trail leaving a galaxy (upper right space in both images) narrows to a point in the lower left, indicating a runaway supermassive black hole.NASA/ESA/Pieter van Dokkum et al./Astrophysical Journal Letters 2023

What you see above are two images of the same thing that tell the story of what happened.

Look at the zoomed-in shot on the right: the big spot in the upper right is a galaxy. Then follow the faint line away from it, ending in a dot in the lower left. That’s where scientists think runaway black holes are hiding.

Black holes, by their nature, are invisible. The reason astronomers can “see” any black hole is because it is surrounded by a rotating hot disk of gas, stars, and other visible cosmic matter.

But the most impressive part of these photos is the streak you can see behind the black hole. This is what caught the eye of the researchers when they examined the stars nearby.

They think the long tail emanating from the black hole is actually a trail of newborn stars, formed after the black hole was ejected from its home galaxy and ripped into space, creating a shockwave that caused clouds of intergalactic gas to collapse into stars. .

“I thought I actually made a mistake in that the film had this weird streak,” Van Dokkum told Insider. “At first it didn’t look like an astrophysical object. And then it turned out it was real. It was in other datasets. And that’s when I got excited.”

Although black holes are notorious for consuming and destroying stars, this one appears to be creating them.

Further observations, possibly with the James Webb Space Telescope, are needed to confirm that the object in the image is indeed a runaway supermassive black hole.

Why would a supermassive black hole go rogue?

Supermassive black holes are mind-bogglingly dense objects with the mass of billions of suns, and scientists think there is one at the center of every galaxy. Needless to say, it takes a lot of force to force one out of his home.

One such catastrophic event that could possibly do the job is if two galaxies collided and their central black hole merged. Collisions between black holes are among the most violent, forceful events in the universe, and can send a small remnant black hole into the void.

Astrophysicists have long theorized that black holes can “go rogue,” or “run away,” if other black holes eject them from galaxies.

But no one has ever confirmed that a black hole is moving through interstellar space, much less a Supermassive Black holes are going rogue.

And while two galaxies colliding is the simplest explanation for a rogue black hole, that’s not what seems to have happened here.

The other 2 black holes have ejected in a rare, violent event

Van Dokkum thinks this black hole had a particularly rare, dramatic, violent exit. Here’s his theory: Two galaxies have merged, and their supermassive black holes have fallen together due to their sheer gravitational pull.

That happens all the time. Hubble has photographed a large number of clustered galaxies, such as the image below. The next step is that this merger is so weird.

Hubble merged galaxies

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, et al. NOL (STScI)

The team thinks that a third galaxy arrived with a third black hole, and its gravity caused a complex dance of three black holes, ending with one of them ejecting into the distance.

Two colorful galaxies intermingled in space

Merged pair of galaxies captured by JWST.ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus, A. Evans

Since then, for 39 million years, the runaway black hole has been screaming away from its home galaxy at about 1,600 kilometers (about 1,000 miles) per second, according to van Dokkum’s team’s calculations. For reference, it would take you 25 seconds to circle the entire Earth at that speed.

Basically, this supermassive black hole (if that’s what it is) gets kicked out of its own home by getting a third wheel. Evidence of this third galaxy has yet to be confirmed, but the team is investigating a trail they see on the opposite side of the galaxy, where they think two other black holes merged and then ejected by retrogression.

“The picture really tells the story,” Van Dokkum says.

That makes the event exceptionally rare, Campanelli said, because it involved three black holes instead of the conventional two that theorists typically postulate in such a scenario.

Follow the path of the newborn star — if it’s not just a jet

The other explanation for the mysterious trail in van Dokkum’s Hubble image is a fairly simple one: jets of matter ejected from the centers of galaxies with highly active black holes.

But both van Dokkum and Campanelli say that’s unlikely, based on the size of the trail in the new image. Jets shot from the galactic center fan away from the galaxy, as material shoots from a point and spreads out into the distance, as shown in the Hubble image below:

Pink cloudy jets shoot out from the Milky Way

Spectacular jets driven by the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy Hercules A.NASA Goddard

Instead, van Dokkum’s Hubble images are a trailblazer among fans towards The galaxy appears to be a trail of new stars that create shock waves in the traveling black hole’s intergalactic gas.

Campanelli added that the galaxy’s compact and irregular shape is “typical” of galaxies formed from mergers.

“I’d be surprised if it wasn’t real,” Van Dokkum said. “If it’s not real, I think it’s actually a combination of a few other gas clouds or something that seems to line up in such a way that it looks like a streak.”

Although they are invisible, there is no reason to worry about rogue supermassive black holes sneaking up on us from other galaxies.

“If it was anywhere near us, we would see the effect,” van Dokkum said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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