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Supermassive 'Renegade' Black Hole Speeds Through Space

May 23, 2017 05:00 AM EDT
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Black holes are terrifying enough anchored in place, but astronomers may have just spotted a supermassive one barreling through space at a great speed.

According to a report from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the "renegade" black hole has around 160 million times the mass of the Sun and is located in a galaxy 3.9 billion light years away. It's strange movement is so unlike the behavior of other known black holes that scientists are eager to learn more in hopes of unlocking more information about these elusive giants.

One of the reasons suggested for the black hole's movement is its "recoil". When two smaller supermassive black holes collide, they merge to form a new and bigger one, and generate gravitational waves that are particularly strong in one direction. These strong waves result in a kick that propell the black hole out of its galaxy's center at a great speed.

The strength and speed of the kick depends entirely on the rate and direction of the spin of the two original black holes, so scientists would theorteically be able to deduce the properties of these smaller objects just by seeing how fast the "renegade" supermassive black hole is going.

Astronomers pored over countless of data to find a potential recoiling black hole to observe. Its host galaxy also shows signs of disturbance in its outer regions, which is a good indication that two galaxies merged relatively recently. Since a recoiling black hole is a product of galaxy mergers, this is a positive sign that scientists have actually found one.

It's also possible that two supermassive black holes are in the center of the galaxy, but one is growing too slowly to produce radiation. However, scientists are more inclined to believe the recoiling black hole theory, although further research are necessary.

The study was accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. It is also available online.

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