Supermassive black holes are one of the scariest, most destructive and utterly intimidating forces in the universe, but the good news is that they usually don’t do a whole lot of moving around. They often reside at the center of large galaxies, like our own Milky Way, with a gravitational pull keeps us all swirling around it. So what could be more frightening than a stationary black hole? How about one that is flying through space like a colossal vacuum, sucking up whatever it happens upon? Astronomers think they’ve spotted one doing exactly that.
Researchers using the ever reliable Hubble Space Telescope compiled data gathered by the device and compared it with readings from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, all of which support the theory that the supermassive black hole at the center of quasar 3C 186 has gone rogue. The quasar — which is the cloud of gas and material surrounding a black hole — was spotted a significant distance from the center of the galaxy it is believed to have helped form, meaning that some extremely powerful force has caused it to fly free.
Using the positional readings of the quasar the scientists were able to calculate an estimated speed that they believe the black hole is moving, and it’s pretty insane. The giant celestial object is cruising along at a breakneck speed of approximately 4.7 million miles per hour. If we were able to travel at that speed, astronauts could travel from Earth to Mars in just over seven hours. Thankfully, space is big, and the rogue black hole doesn’t pose any immediate threat to our own galaxy. At least for now.