THE BLACK HOLE THAT’S JUST TOO BIG
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