icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Scientists zoom in on ‘ghost galaxy’ for breakthrough discovery on supermassive black hole formation

Scientists zoom in on ‘ghost galaxy’ for breakthrough discovery on supermassive black hole formation
Researchers investigating how supermassive black holes (SMBH) form have made a major breakthrough using some state of the art kit to zoom in on a nearby galaxy like never before.

The scientific community has long puzzled over how SMBHs form. Are they titans forged at the birth of the universe, with masses millions, if not billions, of times that of our Sun? Or are they merely mature versions of smaller ‘seed’ black holes that have grown so large by consuming everything around them?

To answer this very question, astronomers and astrophysicists have been hunting for the smallest mass SMBH they can find. One research team led by Cardiff University scientists thinks it’s pretty close, having employed a cutting-edge technique that allowed them to zoom in on their target SMBH. 

“The SMBH in Mirach’s Ghost appears to have a mass within the range predicted by ‘direct collapse’ models,” said Dr. Tim Davis from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy. In other words, the SMBHs are titans from the early universe.

“Mirach’s Ghost” is actually a nearby galaxy, so called on account of its proximity to the star Mirach, whose light gives the galaxy an ethereal glow. One of the lowest-mass SMBHs yet discovered, it is located in the heart of a nearby galaxy and has a mass just shy of one million times that of our own star. 

Describing the SMBH as “currently active and swallowing gas,” Davis says that while this isn’t a definitive answer one way or the other, it does strongly suggest that SMBHs formed in the early universe and did not grow from smaller black holes. 

Also on rt.com Scientists devise new plan to test if mysterious ‘Planet Nine’ is primordial black hole

The current prevailing theory is that there is an SMBH at the heart of nearly all large galaxies in the universe, including our own Milky Way. 

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, along with these cutting edge zoom techniques, which can reveal details only 1.5 light years across in distant galaxies, scientists are gaining a much more detailed picture of the universe around us and how it formed.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!

Dear readers and commenters,

We have implemented a new engine for our comment section. We hope the transition goes smoothly for all of you. Unfortunately, the comments made before the change have been lost due to a technical problem. We are working on restoring them, and hoping to see you fill up the comment section with new ones. You should still be able to log in to comment using your social-media profiles, but if you signed up under an RT profile before, you are invited to create a new profile with the new commenting system.

Sorry for the inconvenience, and looking forward to your future comments,

RT Team.

Podcasts