With the huge progress we have made as a species technology-wise, you’d expect for us to be able to detect pretty much everything that goes on is space around us within a certain area. That’s mostly true, with the Hubble being able to detect light from 10 to 15 billion light years away. And with Hubble soon to go into retirement, only to be replaced by the James Webb, our technology has greatly increased. Encountering something they never knew was there, NASA finds enormous dormant supermassive black hole.
Roughly 300 million light years away, NGC 4889 is an elliptical galaxy found somewhere in the Coma Cluster, which contains over one thousand identified galaxies. As most galaxies do, NGC 4889 contains a supermassive black hole at its center, although there’s something special about this particular one.
The most interesting thing is that the supermassive black hole in NGC 4889, despite once being so powerful and energetic to be qualified as a quasar, is currently resting. This was caused by the black hole consuming pretty much everything near it, leaving it dormant until other cosmic debris finds its way to it.
During its existence, up until it consumed everything around it, the black hole in NGC 4889 ate so much that it expelled in the form of plasma jets energy to equate 1,000 times that expelled by the Milky Way. The fact that it’s dormant may help scientists figure out more about the formation of quasars.
Despite the black hole being about 21 billion times the mass of the sun – making it one of the biggest supermassive black holes on record – it was pretty much undetected up until now. But as scientists were finally able to measure it, they were able to ascertain multiple facts about it.
Ways of detection
In order to detect and measure the dormant giant, the researchers used a workaround that didn’t involve the black hole actually being perceived. Instead, as scientists tend to do, they used physics in order to get the measurements they needed.
By using instruments on the Gemini North Telescope and the Keck II Observatory, the researchers used the velocities of the stars orbiting the black hole in order to ascertain its mass. This was achievable because the speed of the stars is directly dependent on the black hole’s mass.
This was an extremely precise measurement, helping the team of scientists determine the black hole’s diameter to be somewhere around 130 billion kilometers.
Image source: Wikimedia