Mysterious Streak in Active Dwarf Galaxy Traced to Supermassive Black Hole
Astronomers have discovered a runaway supermassive black hole in an extremely active dwarf galaxy located about 7.5 billion light-years from Earth. The streak observed measures over 200,000 light-years long and the black hole itself is estimated to be 20 million times the mass of the Sun. It is also observed to be moving incredibly fast, with a speed of 3.5 million mph. Follow-up observations also showed that the streak is made of compressed gas that is actively forming stars.
It is hypothesized by the team that the galaxy, which shows an irregular shape and vigorous star formation, likely had three black holes in the past, suggesting a recent collision. As the lightest black hole was ejected to create the bright trail, the remaining two were kicked out in the opposite direction with somewhat lower velocity. This suggests that the black hole could have been ejected due to a galactic merger where a third black hole ousted this one.
However, the only way to detect a black hole is when they interact with other objects. Astronomers are uncertain as to how many black holes of varying masses exist in the Milky Way, leaving them in the dark.
Moreover, the team concluded that the best explanation for the streak is a supermassive black hole blasting through the gas that surrounds its galaxy while compressing that gas enough to trigger star formation in its wake. Images captured with Keck Observatory's NIRC2 instrument and adaptive optics show the gas and dust structures in the galactic center, including G objects and X7. The team believes that the black hole is an intermediate-mass black hole and could be more plentiful there than astronomers previously thought.
The findings are the first estimate of X7's mildly eccentric orbital path and most robust analysis to date of the remarkable changes to its appearance, shape, and behavior. Researchers in the future have a promising target to investigate as they search for one of the most colossal missing pieces of the universe. More observations from other telescopes are required to verify that the end of the strange streak is actually a black hole.
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