"It's hard to believe that a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of the sun could be moved at all, let alone kicked out of a galaxy at enormous speed," said Francesca Civano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), who led the new study.
Chandra and other telescopes have shown that the galaxy CID-42 likely contains a massive black hole being ejected at several million miles per hour. The main panel is a wide-field optical image of CID-42 and the area around it. The outlined box represents the more localized view of CID-42 that is shown in the three separate boxes on the right-hand side of the graphic. An image from Chandra (top box) shows that the X-ray emission is concentrated in a single source, corresponding to one of the two sources seen in deep observations by Hubble (middle box). The precise Chandra data helps astronomers narrow their ideas about what is happening in this galaxy, supporting the ejected black hole theory. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/F.Civano et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Optical (wide field): CFHT, NASA/STScI
"But these new data support the idea that gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space first predicted by Albert Einstein but never detected directly -- can exert an extremely powerful force."
Although the ejection of a supermassive black hole from a galaxy by recoil because more gravitational waves are being emitted in one direction than another is likely to be rare, it nevertheless could mean that there are many giant black holes roaming undetected out in the vast spaces between galaxies.
"These black holes would be invisible to us," said co-author Laura Blecha, also of CfA, "because they have consumed all of the gas surrounding them after being thrown out of their home galaxy."
Civano and her group have been studying a system known as CID-42, located in the middle of a galaxy about 4 billion light years away. They had previously spotted two distinct, compact sources of optical light in CID-42, using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
More optical data from the ground-based Magellan and Very Large Telescopes in Chile supplied a spectrum (that is, the distribution of optical light with energy) that suggested the two sources in CID-42 are moving apart at a speed of at least 3 million miles per hour.
Previous Chandra observations detected a bright X-ray source likely caused by super-heated material around one or more supermassive black holes. However, they could not distinguish whether the X-rays came from one or both of the optical sources because Chandra was not pointed directly at CID-42, giving an X-ray source that was less sharp than usual.
"The previous data told us that there was something special going on, but we couldn't tell if there were two black holes or just one," said another co-author Martin Elvis, also of CfA. "We needed new X-ray data to separate the sources."
When Chandra's sharp High Resolution Camera was pointed directly at CID-42, the resulting data showed that X-rays were coming only from one of the sources. The team thinks that when two galaxies collided, the supermassive black holes in the center of each galaxy also collided. The two black holes then merged to form a single black hole that recoiled from gravitational waves produced by the collision, which gave the newly merged black hole a sufficiently large kick for it to eventually escape from the galaxy. The other optical source is thought to be the bright star cluster that was left behind. This picture is consistent with recent computer simulations of merging black holes, which show that merged black holes can receive powerful kicks from the emission of gravitational waves.
There are two other possible explanations for what is happening in CID-42. One would involve an encounter between three supermassive black holes, resulting in the lightest one being ejected. Another idea is that CID-42 contains two supermassive black holes spiraling toward one another, rather than one moving quickly away.
Both of these alternate explanations would require at least one of the supermassive black holes to be very obscured, since only one bright X-ray source is observed. Thus the Chandra data support the idea of a black hole recoiling because of gravitational waves.
The source is located in the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) field, a large, multi-wavelength survey.
The other co-authors are Giorgio Lanzuisi (CfA), Thomas Aldcroft (CfA), Markos Trichas (CfA), Angela Bongiorno (Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPIA), Garching, Germany), Marcella Brusa (MPIA), Andrea Comastri (National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), Bologna, Italy), Avi Loeb (CfA), Mara Salvato (MPIA), Antonella Fruscione (CfA), Anton Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD), Stefanie Komossa (Max-Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, Garching, Germany), Roberto Gilli (INAF, Bologna, Italy), Vincenzo Mainieri (XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre, ESA, Madrid, Spain), Enrico Piconcelli (University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy), and Cristian Vignali (Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn, Germany).
These results will appear in the June 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra Program for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., controls Chandra's science and flight operations.
Megan Watzke | EurekAlert!
Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics
Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences
16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.08.2018 | Life Sciences