Planet Talk

Weird Black Holes

It is well known that black holes sit at the center of massive galaxies. This was the only known location for these massive celestial objects for decades. But as of the past few years, black holes have popped up in odd, unexpected places.

Some scientists dismissed these observations as a fluke, while others weren’t so certain. Astronomers speculated that these black holes could be untapped clues to the universe’s infancy and adolescence. Theoretical astrophysicist Jillian Bellovary of Queensborough Community College in New York City claims that “We can, weirdly, [learn about] the super-beginning of the universe by looking at things really close to us.”

As the number of these weird black holes has continued to grow, the notion has become increasingly harder to ignore. Some of these black holes have been found in relatively small galaxies, and on the galaxy edges rather than the center. Learning about and analyzing these black holes will be crucial to our understanding of galaxy evolution.

As previously believed, smaller galaxies would not go through many mergers, leaving them with runty black holes, if at all. A article explains this discovery in the snippet quoted below:

“But in the late 2000s, astrophysicist Marta Volonteri of Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris at Sorbonne University helped run computer simulations that tracked the evolution of massive black holes from birth to today. In those efforts, almost as soon as they popped into existence, even the smallest galaxies could have surprisingly large black holes. As time passed, some of those galaxies never grew or merged with others, leaving them unmarred after billions of years of cosmic evolution. A wild idea occurred to Volonteri and her colleagues: These galaxies and their black holes were relics of the universe’s birth. If massive black holes in dwarf galaxies did exist, and if astronomers could find them, those black holes would be an unprecedented window into how the first black holes formed.”

Amy Reines, an astronomer, found the first hints that these black holes exist. She looked at data from the galaxy Henize 2-10 (pictured below) and spotted a cosmic bridge of gas with radio emissions present, inklings of a massive black hole.

The work done by these astronomers suggests “that not only do massive galaxies have big black holes, but maybe a majority of galaxies do too,” says Xiaohui Fan, a cosmologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

This work will lead to substantial discoveries and a better understanding of galaxies and black holes as a whole.

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