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Overmassive Black Hole Discovered in Tiny Galaxy

By Belinda McCallum
Epoch Times Staff
Created: December 3, 2012 Last Updated: December 11, 2012
Related articles: Science » Space & Astronomy
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Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14 percent of the total galaxy mass. (NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

Image of lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 taken with Hubble Space Telescope. This small, flattened galaxy contains one of the most massive central black holes ever found. At 17 billion solar masses, the black hole weighs an extraordinary 14 percent of the total galaxy mass. (NASA/ESA/Andrew C. Fabian)

A gigantic black hole has been found with the mass of 17 billion suns, composing 14 percent of its host galaxy’s mass.

Known as NGC 1277, the galaxy is located 220 million light-years away in the constellation of Perseus. Normally, supermassive black holes only make up 0.1 percent of their galaxy’s mass, hence this one is referred to as overmassive.

“This is a really oddball galaxy,” said study co-author Karl Gebhardt at The University of Texas at Austin in a press release. “It’s almost all black hole.”

“This could be the first object in a new class of galaxy-black hole systems.”

The discovery was made during the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Massive Galaxy Survey (MGS), which aims to better understand the relationship between black holes and their galaxies.

Due to the complexity of measuring a black hole’s mass and the time required, astronomers only know the mass of fewer than 100 black holes. This survey allowed the research team to focus on a few unusual galaxies, and their paper looks at the six most massive ones.

“When trying to understand anything, you always look at the extremes: the most massive and the least massive,” Gebhardt said. “We chose a very large sample of the most massive galaxies in the nearby universe.”

“The mass of this black hole is much higher than expected, it leads us to think that very massive galaxies have a different physical process in how their black holes grow.”

The study was published in Nature on Nov. 29.

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