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Hubble spots ‘monster’ black hole zooming through space

Published Apr 7th, 2023 6:14PM EDT
runaway monster black hole illustration
Image: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

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The thought of a runaway black hole zooming through the cosmos is a bit unsettling. However, a new finding from Hubble’s observations shows that not only is a ‘monster’ black hole speeding through space without a home galaxy, but it also isn’t taking time to snack on any nearby planets or stars in the process.

Instead, this rampant black hole is speeding through space, leaving a wake of cosmic star formation in its path. Hubble observed the black hole, which astronomers say is as wide as 20 million suns. It was kicked out of a dwarf galaxy located roughly 7.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Suffice it to say, we don’t have to worry about this particular black hole stopping by and eating Earth or any of the other stars around us. Still, the discovery of such a peculiar and intriguing ‘monster’ black hole, as NASA describes it, is something that has caught many astronomers’ eyes.

In a new study on the black hole, astronomers take a closer look at the trail of dusty star formation it is leaving in its wake. Instead of eating away at other stars, the black hole is moving so quickly that it pushes through the gas it encounters, and then when that gas cools, stars begin to form.

“Like the wake behind a ship we’re seeing the wake behind the black hole,”: Pieter Van Dokkum, a researcher at Yale University, told NASA in a statement. Dokkum, who is involved in the new research paper which is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, says the discovery of the monster black hole was unexpected.

At the time, he was looking for globular star clusters in a nearby dwarf galaxy. The team originally thought it might be cosmic rays hitting the camera detector. However, they quickly realized that the trail was still there, prompting them to look deeper into it.

The belief is that the monster black hole was kicked out of its binary system (a system sharing two black holes) when a third black hole merged with it. The momentum has helped carry it far out beyond its original galaxy, leaving a wake of star formation behind it.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.