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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Nov 14, 2005 0:40:15 GMT -6
Crashing galaxies may have spit out monster black hole
Nov. 12, 2005 Special to World Science
A collision between two galaxies may have led them to spit out a colossal black hole that’s still soaring through space, some astronomers have calculated.
If correct, the proposal would be the first evidence of a possibility astrophysicists have theorized for years: a black hole’s expulsion from a galaxy. Indirectly, it could also shed light on how some black holes became as big as they are—a longstanding puzzle that’s also entangled with the question of how galaxies formed.
A team of researchers describe the results in a paper to appear in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a research journal.
They claim an enigmatic object known as HE0450-2958, estimated to weigh as much as 400 million suns or more, may be the expelled black hole.
Quasars are thought to sit at the centers of big galaxies. This is because most galaxies appear to harbor giant black holes at their cores, so this seems a logical place for a quasar. Quasars would shine so brightly because they’re eating the stars and other material plentifully available in the surrounding galaxy.
But HE0450-2958, estimated to lie more than 3 billion light-years away from us—a light-year is the distance light travels in a year—seems to have no large home galaxy. This has puzzled astronomers, because without this, it should have little to “eat” and thus shouldn’t be shining brightly.
The new research suggests HE0450-2958 is an expelled black hole that still enjoys a quasar-like diet, possibly because it dragged enough material along with itself during its ejection to do so.