As it stands today, the universe is brimming with phenomena we’ve never seen before. Some of them reveal mind-boggling contradictions in our own presumed understanding of the cosmos. Recently, researchers at the University of Michigan found such a cosmic paradox.
BLACK HOLE, COLORFUL PROMISES
The smallest supermassive black hole ever detected was just catalogued by astronomers. At the center of a dwarf disk galaxy known as RGG 118, the odd hole in the cosmos is 340 million light years away from Earth, and will likely help us understand how black holes evolve in conjunction with their host galaxies since first joining the universe over 13 billion years ago.
“Black holes come in several different varieties,” wrote The Christian Science Monitor’s Noelle Swan. “The smallest kind, called a primordial black hole, is the size of a single atom, but it contains the mass of a large mountain. The most widely understood black holes are known as stellar black holes and can contain 20 times the mass of the sun within a ball of space with a diameter of about 10 miles.”
BLACK HOLE RGG 118 IN CONTEXT
However, Ms. Swan reminds us that a supermassive black hole can be big enough to swallow our entire solar system whole. So, despite this latest black hole being relatively small, its cosmic portent is certainly nonetheless maximal. Astronomers estimate RGG 118 to be roughly 50,000 times the mass of our own Sun. This is still 100 times less massive than the supermassive black hole lying at the center of our Milky Way, and 200,000 times smaller than the largest black hole yet catalogued, reported the .
This little devil might make big epistemic waves for the astronomical community.
HOW DO BLACK HOLES FORM WITH THEIR HOST GALAXY?
“These little galaxies can serve as analogues to galaxies in the earlier universe,” remarked Vivienne Baldassare, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and co-author of the study, in a recent press release.
“For galaxies like our Milky Way, we don’t know what it was like in its youth,” continued Baldassare, “[b]y studying how galaxies like this one are growing and feeding their black holes and how the two are influencing each other, we could gain a better understanding of how galaxies were forming in the early universe.”
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