OCT 08, 2020 6:47 PM PDT

Astronomers Observe a Supermassive Black Hole Surrounded by Galaxies

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an array of four individual telescopes in the Atacama desert, has given us a huge amount of new data about the universe. Researchers have now used it to find a group of six galaxies around a supermassive black hole, from when the Universe was just 0.9 billion years old - it's estimated to be 13.8 billion years old now. Black holes are thought to sit at the center of galaxies including the Milky Way. The findings have been reported in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"This research was mainly driven by the desire to understand some of the most challenging astronomical objects -- supermassive black holes in the early Universe. These are extreme systems and to date, we have had no good explanation for their existence," said the lead study author Marco Mignoli, an astronomer at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Bologna, Italy.

The galaxies that were observed rise within a kind of web of gas that's more than 300 times the size of the Milky Way.

"The cosmic web filaments are like spider's web threads," explained Mignoli. "The galaxies stand and grow where the filaments cross, and streams of gas -- available to fuel both the galaxies and the central supermassive black hole -- can flow along the filaments."

Black holes are thought form from collapsing stars, and the oldest ones may come from the collapse of the Universe's youngest stars. To grow as large as they are, massive black holes need fuel, and astronomers have not been sure about where that would come from; this work may help resolve that question. The web of gases and the galaxies in it can provide fuel for the growth of a black hole so that it can be a supermassive giant.

"Our work has placed an important piece in the largely incomplete puzzle that is the formation and growth of such extreme, yet relatively abundant, objects so quickly after the Big Bang," said study co-author Roberto Gilli, also an astronomer at INAF in Bologna.

Dark matter may be an important part of these gaseous webs.

"Our finding lends support to the idea that the most distant and massive black holes form and grow within massive dark matter halos in large-scale structures, and that the absence of earlier detections of such structures was likely due to observational limitations," said study co-author Colin Norman of Johns Hopkins University.

These galaxies are some of the faintest that have ever been detected.

"We believe we have just seen the tip of the iceberg, and that the few galaxies discovered so far around this supermassive black hole are only the brightest ones," said study co-author Barbara Balmaverde, an astronomer at INAF in Torino, Italy.

Sources: Science Daily via ESO, Astronomy & Astrophysics

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
An Unusual Black Hole Merges with Another
SEP 07, 2020
An Unusual Black Hole Merges with Another
A bulky black hole, which may have already been the product of a black hole merger, appears to have tangled with a more ...
SEP 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Something Unexpected Happens on Mars During Solar Eclipse
SEP 16, 2020
Something Unexpected Happens on Mars During Solar Eclipse
From data captured by NASA's InSight Mars Lander, researchers in Switzerland have found that Mars behaves differentl ...
SEP 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Potential Signs of Life Spotted in the Clouds of Venus
SEP 20, 2020
Potential Signs of Life Spotted in the Clouds of Venus
Scientists were stunned to discover possible signs of life in the atmosphere of Venus. Their initial findings were confi ...
NOV 27, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Gravity Affects Gene Expression
NOV 27, 2020
Gravity Affects Gene Expression
If people are going to explore deep space, we should learn more about the effects that such an environment would potenti ...
DEC 04, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Fusions in Action: Scientists Confirm a Different Way the Sun Produces Energy
DEC 04, 2020
Fusions in Action: Scientists Confirm a Different Way the Sun Produces Energy
Since its formation, the Sun has been the main power source for all objects within its irradiation range, putting out 3. ...
JAN 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Discover Planet with 3 Suns
JAN 17, 2021
Astronomers Discover Planet with 3 Suns
Having just one star in our solar system makes us an outlier in our galaxy. However, while most solar systems in the Mil ...
Loading Comments...