In an article posted June 10 to the Astrophysical Journal Letters website, astrophysicists at Stanford report spotting a black hole so massive that it’s more than 10 billion times the mass of our sun. More important, this heavyweight is so far away that the scientists think it formed when the universe first began to light up with stars and galaxies, so it may provide a window into our cosmological origins.
’’In cosmology, it turns out that ’a galaxy a long time ago’ and ’far, far away’ really do go together,’’ says Associate Professor Roger Romani, who with graduate student David Sowards-Emmerd and Professor Peter Michelson of Stanford, and radio astronomer Lincoln Greenhill of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, spotted one of the oldest supermassive black holes yet found. The scientists collaborate at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford. ’’In this case, we’re looking at [a black hole] far enough away that it’s within a billion years of the origin of it all, the Big Bang.’’
The supermassive black hole sits in the center of a galaxy. A disk of stars and gas swirl around the black hole and eventually get sucked in. ’’That generates enormous amounts of power, enormous amounts of energy,’’ Romani says. ’’It’s far more efficient even than nuclear fusion. These gravity-powered sources are the most powerful sources in the universe.’’
Dawn Levy | EurekAlert!
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