Even black holes aren’t safe in the celestial tussle that goes on in the depths of the Universe as new evidence from Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a supermassive black hole has been kicked out of galactic core possibly by gravitational waves.
The supermassive black hole though can’t be spotted directly weighs at least 1 billion suns and according to astronomers who made the discovery, it is the most massive black hole till date that has been kicked out of its galactic home. Astronomers have theoretically worked out the amount of energy that would have been required to kick the black hole out of its core – energy equivalent to 100 million supernovas exploding simultaneously.
According to the team behind the discovery, the black hole was jettisoned off its place possibly by a kick unleashed by gravitational waves created as a result of merger of two massive black holes at the centre of the host galaxy.
Hubble images taken in visible and near-infrared light provided the first clue that the galaxy was unusual. The images revealed a bright quasar, the energetic signature of a black hole, residing far from the galactic core. The quasar, named 3C 186, and its host galaxy reside 8 billion light-years away in a galaxy cluster. The team discovered the galaxy’s peculiar features while conducting a Hubble survey of distant galaxies unleashing powerful blasts of radiation in the throes of galaxy mergers.
“When I first saw this, I thought we were seeing something very peculiar,” said team leader Marco Chiaberge of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, US. “When we combined observations from Hubble, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, it all pointed towards the same scenario.”
To calculate the distance of the black hole from the core of the galaxy scientists compared the distribution of starlight in the host galaxy with that of a normal elliptical galaxy from a computer model. The black hole had travelled more than 35,000 light-years from the centre, which is more than the distance between the sun and the centre of the Milky Way, according to the study.
The calculations also reveal the black hole’s velocity, because the gas is gravitationally locked to the monster object. The astronomers calculated that the black hole is moving so fast it would travel from Earth to the moon in three minutes. That’s fast enough for the black hole to escape the galaxy in 20 million years and roam through the universe forever. The findings will be published in the March 30 issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics.