THE BLACK HOLE THAT’S JUST TOO BIG

All About Space - - The Impossible Star -

Black holes rep­re­sent the uni­verse at its most ex­treme. They are re­gions of space so warped that any­thing ven­tur­ing too close is doomed to obliv­ion. But with­out them we prob­a­bly wouldn’t be here ei­ther. These grav­i­ta­tional demons are thought to be the seeds around which gal­ax­ies like our own Milky Way are formed. At the very heart of our galaxy, and ev­ery other, lies a su­per­mas­sive black hole bind­ing the stars to­gether.

Nor­mally the size of the black hole tal­lies with the size of the galaxy – the big­ger the black hole the big­ger the galaxy. As a galaxy grows its black hole feeds and gets big­ger, too. But that rule goes out the win­dow with a galaxy known as WISE1029+0501. It has a cen­tral black hole far big­ger than it should be. That might mean some­thing else has been help­ing it bulk up – some­thing we haven’t con­sid­ered be­fore.

The mys­tery deep­ened in early 2018 when ob­ser­va­tions with the Ata­cama Large Mil­lime­ter/ sub­mil­lime­ter Ar­ray (ALMA) showed the out­flow of gas from the black hole has less of an ef­fect on the sur­round­ing galac­tic gas than ex­pected, re­in­forc­ing the idea that the two sys­tems aren’t in lock-step.

artist's im­pres­sion of a black hole

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