Half Of All Dwarf Galaxies Could Have Off-Center Supermassive Black Holes

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When it comes to black holes, they usually vary in size based on the galaxy they are found in. For example, massive galaxies have black holes proportional in size, like our home galaxy, the Milky Way. What’s interesting is that smaller galaxies can have massive black holes, as well. A new study backs this up, showing evidence of dozens of massive black holes that reside in tiny dwarf galaxies.

On May 20, Harvard University hosted the Black Hole Initiative Conference of 2019. There, astronomer Amy Reines held a speech where he expressed his amazement regarding the results of the study. He was stunned to find out that some of these potential black holes were located towards the outskirts of their host galaxies. This comes as a surprise since most black holes are at the center of galaxies. Analyzing these celestial objects could offer scientists more information on the developmental stages of black holes in bigger galaxies.

Amy Reines, professor at the Montana State University, stated that, contrary to popular belief, some dwarf galaxies could host massive black holes that can “hold clues to the formation of the first black hole seeds in the early universe.” The majority of massive galaxies discovered have a supermassive black hole at their center that can weigh between 100,000 and a few billion times more than the sun. Usually, the mass of the black hole is proportional to the size of the galaxy it’s found in.

Half Of All Dwarf Galaxies Could Have Off-Center Supermassive Black Holes

While being a graduate student in 2011, Reines was searching for clues of star formation, and instead stumbled upon a supermassive black hole in the dwarf galaxy Heize 2-10, located approximately 30 million light-years away from our planet. This discovery motivated her to look for more objects that fit this description.

Since then, Reines put together a research team with some of her colleagues. Together, they managed to find around 100 massive black holes. They believe this is just “the tip of the iceberg” since they were only able to detect highly active black holes, as these are the ones that show up the most in visible wavelengths. There could be several other black holes like this that are simply more difficult to find.

The researchers began the next step of their study, and they are now focusing on finding less active black holes, by detecting longer, invisible radio wavelengths. Using this method, the team of researchers found more black holes similar to what they have been looking for. The thing is that these newly-discovered objects were not located in the center of their galaxies. Using computer simulations, scientists found out that half of all dwarf galaxies could have off-center black holes.


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