When galaxies merge, we expect them to produce binary black holes (BBHs.) BBHs orbit one another closely, and when they merge, they produce gravitational waves that have been detected by LIGO-Virgo. The upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory should be able to find them before they merge, which would open a whole new window into the study of galaxy mergers, supermassive black holes, binary black holes, and gravitational waves.Continue reading “Vera Rubin Will Find Binary Supermassive Black Holes. Here’s How.”
When you think of a black hole, you might think its defining feature is its event horizon. That point of no return not even light can escape. While it’s true that all black holes have an event horizon, a more critical feature is the disk of hot gas and dust circling it, known as the accretion disk. And a team of astronomers have made the first direct measure of one.Continue reading “Astronomers Precisely Measure a Black Hole's Accretion Disk”
Nearly every galaxy in the universe contains a supermassive black hole. Even galaxies that are billions of light years away. This means supermassive black holes form early in the development of a galaxy. They are possibly even the gravitational seeds around which a galaxy forms. But astronomers are still unclear about just how these massive gravitational beasts first appeared.Continue reading “Could This Supermassive Black Hole Only Have Formed by Direct Collapse?”
According to our predominant cosmological models, Dark Matter accounts for roughly 85% of the mass in the Universe. While ongoing efforts to study this mysterious, invisible mass have yielded no direct evidence, astrophysicists have been able to measure its influence by observing Dark Matter Haloes, gravitational lenses, and the effect of General Relativity on large-scale cosmic structures. And with the help of next-generation missions like the ESA’s Euclid and NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman space telescopes, Dark Matter may not be a mystery for much longer!
And then something like this comes along: a massive galaxy that appears to have little or no Dark Matter! This is precisely what a team of astronomers led by members of the Instituto Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) noticed when observing NGC 1277. This lenticular galaxy, located 240 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus, is several times more massive than the Milky Way. This is the first time a massive galaxy has been found that doesn’t show signs of Dark Matter, which is a serious challenge to our current cosmological models.Continue reading “A Massive Galaxy With Almost No Dark Matter”
Every large galaxy in the nearby universe contains a supermassive black hole at its core. The mass of those black holes seems to have a relationship to the mass of the host galaxies themselves. But estimating the masses of more distant supermassive black holes is challenging. Astronomers extrapolate from what we know about nearby galaxies to estimate distant black hole masses, but it’s not a perfectly accurate measurement.
An astrophysicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Joseph Simon, recently proposed that there might be a better way to measure black hole mass, and his model indicates that early black holes may be much larger than other predictions suggest.Continue reading “Early Black Holes Were Bigger Than We Thought”
After almost seventy years of study, astronomers are still fascinated by active galactic nuclei (AGN), otherwise known as quasi-stellar objects (or “quasars.”) These are the result of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of massive galaxies, which cause gas and dust to fall in around them and form accretion disks. The material in these disks is accelerated to close to the speed of light, causing it to release tremendous amounts of radiation in the visible, radio, infrared, ultraviolet, gamma-ray, and X-ray wavelengths. In fact, quasars are so bright that they temporarily outshine every star in their host galaxy’s disk combined.
The brightest quasar observed to date, 100,000 billion times as luminous as our Sun, is known as SMSS J114447.77-430859.3 (J1144). This AGN is hosted by a galaxy located roughly 9.6 billion light years from Earth between the constellations Centaurus and Hydra. Using data from the eROSITA All Sky Survey and other space telescopes, an international team of astronomers conducted the first X-ray observations of J1144. This data allowed the team to investigate prevailing theories about AGNs that could provide new insight into the inner workings of quasars and how they affect their host galaxies.Continue reading “eROSITA Sees Changes in the Most Powerful Quasar”
Throughout recorded history, humans have looked up at the night sky and witnessed the major astronomical events known as a “supernova.” The name, still used by astronomers, referred to the belief that these bursts of light in the “firmament” signaled the birth of a “new star.” With the birth of telescopes and modern astronomy, we have since learned that supernovae are what occur at the end of a star’s lifecycle. At this point, when a star has exhausted its hydrogen and helium fuel, it experiences gravitational collapse at its center.
This leads to a tremendous explosion that can be seen billions of light-years distant, releasing tremendous amounts of energy and blowing the star’s outer layers off. Thanks to an international team of astronomers led by the University of Southhampton, the most powerful cosmic explosion has been confirmed! The stellar explosion, AT2021lwx, took place about 8 billion light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula and was over ten times brighter than any supernova ever observed and 100 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way combined!Continue reading “The Largest Explosion Ever Seen in the Universe”
They are known as ultra-fast outflows (UFOs), powerful space winds emitted by the supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) – aka. “quasars.” These winds (with a fun name!) move close to the speed of light (relativistic speeds) and regulate the behavior of SMBHs during their active phase. These gas emissions are believed to fuel the process of star formation in galaxies but are not yet well understood. Astronomers are interested in learning more about them to improve our understanding of what governs galactic evolution.
This is the purpose of the SUper massive Black hole Winds in the x-rAYS (SUBWAYS) project, an international research effort dedicated to studying quasars using the ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope. The first results of this project were shared by a group of scholars led by the University of Bologna and the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Italy. In the paper that describes their findings, the team presented X-ray spectroscopic data to characterize the properties of UFOs in 22 luminous galaxies.Continue reading “Galactic Black Hole Winds Blow Up to a Third the Speed of Light. The Impact on Their Galaxies is Impressive.”
Did humanity miss the party? Are SETI, the Drake Equation, and the Fermi Paradox all just artifacts of our ignorance about Advanced Life in the Universe? And if we are wrong, how would we know?
A new study focusing on black holes and their powerful effect on star formation suggests that we, as advanced life, might be relics from a bygone age in the Universe.Continue reading “Advanced Life Should Have Already Peaked Billions of Years Ago”
In honor of Black Hole Week, NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio has released an amazing video showing how several supermassive black holes scale with our solar system. It’s definitely worth checking out because it’s an excellent example of just how overwhelmingly huge some black holes are.Continue reading “Black Hole Event Horizons Can Get So Big it'll Boggle Your Imagination”