A supermassive black hole ‘HUNGRY’ was detected using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory earlier this week, researchers say.
The discovery black hole was announced during the 239th virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society on Monday.
Astronomers were observing eight dwarf galaxies when optical data suggested one of them may be hosting a feeding supermassive black hole.
The data then pinpointed the Mrk 462 galaxy, 110 million light-years from Earth and fairly devoid of stars, as the home of the black hole.
And while the black hole is classified as ‘supermassive’, it is one of the smallest black holes observed by astronomers, having a mass just 200,000 times that of our Sun.
“This Mrk 462 black hole is one of the smallest of the supermassive, or monster, black holes… [They] notoriously hard to find,” said astronomer Jack Parker of Dartmouth College.
One of the reasons that black holes of this size are so hard to find is that dwarf galaxies are often too small and dim due to the lack of stars to observe from Earth.
However, using the Chandra X-ray Observatory’s instrument, astronomers were able to detect the extremely bright, high-energy radiation emitted by the supermassive black hole.
What makes astronomers’ observations all the more rare is that the black hole is obscured by a dense cloud of dust.
“Because buried black holes are even more difficult to detect than exposed ones, finding this example could be potentially dangerous,” said Ryan Hickox, NASA’s co-lead of the research team, in a NASA statement. That could mean there are a lot of dwarf galaxies with similar black holes.
This new data suggests that perhaps some black holes have not yet formed too large, but grown from stellar particles less than 100 times the mass of the Sun as they feed on gas and dust.
“We cannot draw firm conclusions from one example, but this result should encourage more extensive searches of black holes buried in dwarf galaxies,” Parker said.
“We’re excited about what we can learn,” he added.
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https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/17318705/hungry-supermassive-black-hole-sun/ Hungry supermassive black hole ‘actively feeding’ found by astronomers – it has 200,000 times the mass of the Sun