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Astronomers Flabbergasted By Giant Object, Never Seen Before

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Some of the biggest black holes in the Universe may actually be even bigger than previously thought, according to a study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Astronomers have long known about the class of the largest black holes, which they call “supermassive” black holes. Typically, these black holes, located at the centers of galaxies, have masses ranging between a few million and a few billion times that of our sun.

This new analysis has looked at the brightest galaxies in a sample of 18 galaxy clusters, to target the largest black holes. The work suggests that at least ten of the galaxies contain an ultramassive black hole, weighing between 10 and 40 billion times the mass of the sun. Astronomers refer to black holes of this size as “ultramassive” black holes and only know of a few confirmed examples.

 
Ultramassive Black Hole: 10 and 40 billion times the mass of the sun.
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Stanford/Hlavacek-Larrondo, J. et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA 

“Our results show that there may be many more ultramassive black holes in the universe than previously thought,” said study leader Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo of Stanford University and formerly of Cambridge University in the UK.

The researchers estimated the masses of the black holes in the sample by using an established relationship between masses of black holes, and the amount of X-rays and radio waves they generate. This relationship, called the fundamental plane of black hole activity, fits the data on black holes with masses ranging from 10 solar masses to a billion solar masses.

The black hole masses derived by Hlavacek-Larrondo and her colleagues were about ten times larger than those derived from standard relationships between black hole mass and the properties of their host galaxy. One of these relationships involves a correlation between the black hole mass and the infrared luminosity of the central region, or bulge, of the galaxy.

“These results may mean we don’t really understand how the very biggest black holes coexist with their host galaxies,” said co-author Andrew Fabian of Cambridge University. “It looks like the behavior of these huge black holes has to differ from that of their less massive cousins in an important way.”

All of the potential ultramassive black holes found in this study lie in galaxies at the centers of massive galaxy clusters containing huge amounts of hot gas. Outbursts powered by the central black holes are needed to prevent this hot gas from cooling and forming enormous numbers of stars. To power the outbursts, the black holes must swallow large amounts of mass. Because the largest black holes can swallow the most mass and power the biggest outbursts, ultramassive black holes had already been predicted to exist, to explain some of the most powerful outbursts seen. The extreme environment experienced by these galaxies may explain why the standard relations for estimating black hole masses based on the properties of the host galaxy do not apply.

These results can only be confirmed by making detailed mass estimates of the black holes in this sample, by observing and modeling the motion of stars or gas in the vicinity of the black holes. Such a study has been carried out for the black hole in the center of the galaxy M87, the central galaxy in the Virgo Cluster, the nearest galaxy cluster to earth. The mass of M87′s black hole, as estimated from the motion of the stars, is significantly higher than the estimate using infrared data, approximately matching the correction in black hole mass estimated by the authors of this Chandra study.

“Our next step is to measure the mass of these monster black holes in a similar way to M87, and confirm they are ultramassive. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up finding the biggest black holes in the Universe,” said Hlavacek-Larrondo. “If our results are confirmed, they will have important ramifications for understanding the formation and evolution of black holes across cosmic time.”

In addition to the X-rays from Chandra, the new study also uses radio data from the NSF’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) and infrared data from the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS).

These results were published in the July 2012 issue of The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Contacts and sources: Megan Watzke, Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.

 
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    Total 14 comments
    • Ahura Madza

      I wonder if they had a CERN particle accelerator….

      • Mayhem

        Did I tell you about the LHC?

        From where I am sitting right now it is almost directly opposite me. On the other side of the world like. True and so close to exactly that I’m starting to think it’s all about me. All of it, everything.

        Should I worry.

        • whitebear

          i think you’re flabbergasted there brother mayhem, maybe having your midlife thing . . . :lol:

          he he he

        • Gojiroiscoming

          I would only worry if you woke up thinking you’re the messiah because of last night’s Powerball numbers.

    • whitebear

      flabbergasted . . . :lol:

      • Mayhem

        I think I’m only off by about 1500 Km.

        And a continent but I’m claiming it all the same. It looks like it comes out in Australia somewhere. I’m in NZ and actually on the Pacific plate but I can see the Australasian tectonic plate from my back door.

        We spit at Australia. :razz:

        • Anonymous

          Ahhh that is why so many Kiwis have spittle running down their faces, you really should know it is not advisable to sipt into the wind
          From an Aussie, hey Kiwi, hope all is well over there with the EQs etc

        • Mayhem

          Aha!

          If you don’t tell the people that our two countries are secretly quite fond of each other I won’t tell them that we plan to take you lot over when you finally drift within range.

          Go! The trans-tasman rivalry.

    • Anonymous

      where will obama be 21-22-23 dec?

      • Anonymous

        Been asking myself that same Question!

    • HereAmI

      Julie and Andrew have been sniffing lighter fuel again. They started off at the cheese tray, all those years ago, and now it’s come to this. Tragic. Such a waste of the bright futures they had mapped out for themselves back in jolly old Cambridge, punting along the Cam sharing a crafty joint. I warned them, but they wouldn’t listen. The usual story.
      Notice how they have to concoct a new set of rules to explain a phenomenon which doesn’t fit in with what they would have expected. Science is all about predicting future eventualities by referring to an existing paradigm; not about making up new patches all the time to cover the inability of your theory to explain novel situations. This is not science, this is anti-science.
      Julie, Andrew, you are not going to like this. But Black Holes don’t exist. They are a bit like Santa Claus as the underpinning for the Christmas commercial bonanza, or HIV to justify the selling of billions of dollars worth of poisonous and lethal drugs to Africans who only need clean water, proper sanitation, and decent food to become well again, as confirmed by the “discoverer”of the “virus”, Luc Montagnier. Black Holes sound exciting and sexy, and they prop up the entirely discredited edifice of mainstream astrophysics, which is now entirely degenerate, and unable even to predict or explain the behaviour of our closest star, the Sun.
      Here’s a little tip. Print out a copy of something from the Electric Universe website, and take it under the bedclothes with you tonight, together with a torch. Read it. Go to sleep. And when you wake up tomorrow, decide that you are finally going to start telling the people at BIN the truth.

      • Mayhem

        I really haven’t troubled myself about black holes. Enough to worry about right under my nose. However I understood that these things were so powerfully gravitational that not even light could escape them.
        If so. :???:

        How come we can see them? How come there are no blanks in space that would indicate a less than nothing exists? How come we have telescope images?

        Or is it all just an artists impression?

    • brokeyland

      Super Massive Black hole is also a Muse song…. Reference : twilight

    • come out of babylon!

      What a beautiful sight. Our Creator is amazing!

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