NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a supermassive black hole that defies current theories about the universe and shouldn’t actually exist.
The mysterious black hole is located in the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147 and weighs around 250 million times more than the Sun.
The phenomenon of the NGC 3147 black hole has been described in the astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The black hole is encircled by a thin disk, made up of debris and gas that races around the edge of the hole.
It is this disk that is confusing astronomers because it technically shouldn’t be there.
This is because the black hole is actually ‘starving’ because not enough material is being captured by it’s huge gravitational field and ‘hungry’ black holes don’t form disks of material – or so scientists thought.
Lead author of the study Stefano Bianchi said: “It’s the same type of disk we see in objects that are 1,000 or even 100,000 times more luminous.
“The predictions of current models for gas dynamics in very faint active galaxies clearly failed.”
The black hole, which is about 130 million light-years from Earth, has a disk of debris spinning around at casual 18,628 miles per second – that’s 10% of the speed of light.
Spotting this disk has given astronomers the chance to see two of Einstein’s theories on relativity in action and could help them to understand the process that happens at the edge of black holes.
Bianchi said: “This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how we see the photons of light.”
The researchers will now be looking for more galaxies with black holes like this in the hope of explaining the phenomenon.
What is a black hole? The key facts
Here's what you need to know…
What is a black hole?
- A black hole is a region of space where absolutely nothing can escape
- That’s because they have extremely strong gravitational effects, which means once something goes into a black hole, it can’t come back out
- They get their name because even light can’t escape once it’s been sucked in – which is why a black hole is completely dark
What is an event horizon?
- There has to be a point at which you’re so close to a black hole you can’t escape
- Otherwise literally everything in the universe would have been sucked into one
- The point at which you can no longer escape from a black hole’s gravitational pull is called the event horizon
- The event horizon varies between different black holes, depending on their mass and size
What is a singularity?
- The gravitational singularity is the very centre of a black hole
- It’s a one-dimensional point that contains an incredibly large mass in an infinitely small space
- At the singularity, space-time curves infinitely and the gravitational pull is infinitely strong
- Conventional laws of physics stop applying at this point
How are black holes created?
- Most black holes are made when a supergiant star dies
- This happens when stars run out of fuel – like hydrogen – to burn, causing the star to collapse
- When this happens, gravity pulls the centre of the star inwards quickly, and collapses into a tiny ball
- It expands and contracts until one final collapse, causing part of the star to collapse inward thanks to gravity, and the rest of the star to explode outwards
- The remaining central ball is extremely dense, and if it’s especially dense, you get a black hole
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What do you make of this mysterious black hole? Let us know in the comments…
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