As astronomers ventured into the depths of a hungry black hole, their gaze unveiled a remarkable sight—a fierce surge of X-rays erupting from it, boasting a temperature a staggering 60,000 times hotter than the surface of our very own sun.

Quasars are black holes that emit dazzling, energetic electromagnetic radiation jets from both sides when they consume the gases at the center of galaxies. The team’s X-ray photograph of a quasar known as SMSS J114447.77-430859.3 (J1144), is the most brilliant such object to have been spotted in the last 9 billion years of cosmic history. This amazing quasar radiates with intensity beyond our wildest dreams, outshining the sun’s brightness by an astounding factor of 100,000 billion. If you gaze upon the night sky amidst the celestial dance of Centaurus and Hydra, you may catch a glimpse of this celestial wonder, although it resides a mind-boggling distance of 9.6 billion light-years away.

The combined light from all the stars of the galaxies they are located in is frequently eclipsed by quasars like J1144 because they are so bright. They serve as instances of so-called active galactic nuclei (AGN), which are only discovered in the early cosmos and at great distances from Earth. Astronomers may gain a thorough understanding of these potent cosmic occurrences and the impact they have on their galaxy surroundings by studying the quasar.

Quasars are thought to be present in the early cosmos because galaxies at that time were richer in gas and dust, according to scientific theory. They had enough fuel to support dazzling emissions across nearly the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including low-energy radio, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, and high-energy X-ray wavelengths, thanks to their center black holes, which could be seen as a source of light.

SkyMapper Southern Survey (SMSS) first observed J1144 in the visible spectrum in 2022. The team, which was also directed by Ph.D. candidate Zsofi Igo from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), combined observations from various space-based observatories to further investigate this finding. These included the eROSITA instrument of the NASA Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), the ESA XMM-Newton observatory, and the NASA Neil Gehrels Swift observatory.

By utilizing the amalgamation of data at our disposal, we were able to discern an astounding estimation regarding the temperature of the X-rays emanating from the quasars, indicating an astonishing value of approximately 630 million degrees Fahrenheit (350 million degrees Celsius). This is surprisingly startling 60,000 times hotter than the surface temperature of the sun.

Additionally, the diligent researchers conducted estimations to unveil the mass of the black hole, ultimately revealing a remarkable finding—a colossal magnitude weighing in at around 10 billion times the mass of our beloved sun. In addition, given how swiftly it devours stuff, J1144’s supermassive black hole is growing at a pace of 100 suns every year. The gas that surrounds this black hole is not all going into it, though.

The researchers found that a little amount of gas is being blasted from the quasar in the form of incredibly strong winds that are supplying a significant amount of energy to the galaxy it is located in.

The scientists also found that J1144 has a characteristic that sets it apart from other quasars: Its X-ray emission changes over just a few Earth days. The fluctuation of its X-rays would typically be on a timeframe of months or even years for a quasar with a black hole this big.

“We were very surprised that no prior X-ray observatory has ever observed this source despite its extreme power,” Kammoun added. “A new monitoring campaign of this source will start in June this year, which may reveal more surprises from this unique source.”

In the heart of huge galaxies like our own, you’ll find a supermassive black hole (SMBH). They maintain their commanding position in the center of the galaxy, where they consume gas, dust, stars, and everything else that comes too close, causing them to become ever more massive over time. However, in extremely unusual cases, an SMBH can be expelled from its orbit and sent hurtling across space.

The new study!

A new publication by Canadian, Australian, and American scientists shows evidence of a rogue Supermassive Black Hole racing through space and interacting with the circumgalactic medium (CGM.) In the process of moving, the giant is generating shock waves and firing off the birth of stars.

The title of the study is “A candidate runaway supermassive black hole identified by shocks and star formation in its wake.” Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University Pieter van Dokkum is the paper’s primary author. Currently, there has been no round of peer review for this research.

Runaway SMBH!

You may now be the only one who has never heard of a runaway Supermassive Black Hole. Most SMBHs live in the galactic core. SMBHs can leave their galaxies under certain conditions, according to experts. This paper describes how a supermassive black hole (SMBH) can be expelled from its galaxy.

When galaxies collide, it always begins. Because of this, a binary SMBH forms at the core of the merger remnant. The binary SMBH can live for up to a billion years before collapsing. At that point, if a third SMBH has made it to the galactic core, a three-body collision could give one of the SMBHs a velocity boost, propelling it out of the galaxy.

However, locating these rogue SMBHs is challenging despite their theoretical underpinnings. In 2021, at a distance of roughly 230 million light-years, astronomers discovered one of the best candidates. The authors witnessed unusual activity and speeds, which they interpreted as signs of recent upheaval. A galaxy merger, a binary black hole system, or a gravitational-wave recoil event? They couldn’t tell.

Spotting a rogue Supermassive Black Hole!

It is possible to spot a rogue SMBH in a couple of ways, as astronomers are well aware. The hole is actively swallowing matter like an active galactic nucleus. And its brightness is very useful as a telltale sign of its presence. The authors state, “For such objects, “the presence of an SMBH is not in doubt, but it can be difficult to determine whether they are ‘naked’ black holes or the nuclei of merging galaxies.”

Another way is the rogue hole’s stellar mass. As it ejects, an SMBH pulls some stars along. Without an AGN, the dimness makes it hard to distinguish the hole and its star partners from afar.

Scientists may be able to discover a rogue SMBH by observing the diffuse gas in the circumgalactic medium (CGM) as it passes through.

The author of the paper wrote: “The interaction of a runaway supermassive black hole with the CGM can lead to the formation of a wake of shocked gas and young stars behind it,”. In their paper, they talk about how they accidentally found a line in Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys pictures that could be one of these wakes.

An SMBH’s passage through the ionized hydrogen of the CGM results in a shock front and a lengthy wake. Shock clouds of gas in the wake can cool and condense into stars, leaving behind a path that looks like a series of knots. They determined the ages and metallicities of three of the knots in the linear feature.

Theory and mathematical method!

Theoretical and numerical methods suggest that the wake’s youngest stars shouldn’t be older than 30 million years old. The three knots have traits consistent with ages in the range by the researcher’s predictions. They have similar metal and dust densities.

If an SMBH was expelled from the host galaxy, the galaxy should display symptoms of disturbance. Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) are so massive that they shape the galaxies they pass through. The team discovered that the galaxy that gave birth to the rogue SMBH had an abnormal shape.

The linear feature could also be explained in another way, though. It could be a jet from a black hole instead of a rogue Supermassive Black Hole. Black hole jets can also shock gas in the CGM and cause stars to form if the conditions are right. The authors say, “There are two well-studied nearby examples of jets triggering star formation,”. One of them is called Minkowski’s Object.

A black hole jet is a likely reason, but it has many issues!

The authors agree that the jet from a black hole is a likely reason, but they tell there are numerous issues with it. Jets from a black hole don’t have visible emission lines, and there is no sign of nuclear activity. There is also a problem with morphology.“A more serious issue is that the morphology of the feature does not match simulations or observations of jet-induced star formation,” the authors say.

Moreover, they write: “The line ratios, colors, and the overall morphology are consistent with an ejected SMBH moving through the CGM at high speed while triggering star formation,”.

Finding the black holes would be proof beyond a doubt that this is true. The researchers write, “The ‘smoking gun’ evidence for this scenario would be the unambiguous identification of the black holes themselves,” Moreover, they explain. “The obvious places to look for them are A and B in Fig. 6.”

Do rogue SMBHs exist?

It’s not surprising that these observations’ lasting characteristic has an uncommon explanation. The JWST can provide more observations to determine if rogue SMBHs are at work.

“Deeper data, for instance, from the JWST NIRSPEC IFU, may show the expected broad, highly red- or blueshifted emission lines of ionized gas that is bound to the black holes themselves. Those data could also spatially resolve flows, shocks, and star formation near A,” the authors say, looking ahead.

And if one Supermassive Black Hole gets out of control and makes one of these features, there will be more.

The authors state: “Looking ahead, the morphology of the feature in the HST images is so striking that it should not be too difficult to find more examples if they exist. Future data from the Nancy Grace Roman telescope can be searched with automated algorithms,”.

A rogue Supermassive Black Hole that has broken away from its galaxy and is wandering through the circumgalactic medium is an interesting thing to see. We’re just starting to learn about SMBHs, how they affect galaxy growth, and how they come together to make gravitational waves.


Published by: Sky Headlines