One of the biggest black holes ever recorded may have been ejected from one galaxy and ‘picked up’ by another.
The unprecedented theory was proposed after astronomers found it accounted for a whopping 14 per cent of NGC 1277’s total galactic mass, blowing through a previously held belief that galactic black holes averaged only 0.1 per cent of a galaxy’s total mass.
This mismatched pairing of a normal galaxy in the Perseus cluster with a black hole 17 billion times the mass of the Sun caused scientists to scour the surrounding area and calculate the gravitational interactions between local astronomical objects. During their search they found a giant galaxy – NGC 1275 – that could have supported the black hole about 325,000 light years from NGC 1277.
This spurred the astronomers to run some computer simulations to study the potential ways 1277’s black hole might have ‘jumped’ from 1275. The result was a theory in which 1275 was formed from two galaxies with 10-billion-solar-mass black holes which, during the merger, caused one of them to be ejected at phenomenal speed. This runaway black hole was then assimilated by NGC 1277.
Despite the team’s theory being backed up by a number of computer simulations, the complex chain of events that it rests upon have been questioned by some in the astrophysical community. Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, MA, commented:
” Several rare events (like those suggested by the team) together are unlikely. I would think that there are more likely ways of achieving the same result.”