NASA’s Hubble finds a “Star-maker” Black Hole Creating a 200,000-light-year-long trail of Newborn Stars

The Hubble Space Telescope detected a Supermassive Black Hole weighing about 20 Million Suns, barreling through space so swiftly that it could cover the distance between Earth and the moon, an average distance of 382,500 kilometers or 237674 miles in 14 minutes[1].

Interestingly, this Supermassive Black Hole has created a 200-light-year-long trail of newborn stars which is almost twice the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy!

What Caused the Birth of These Newborn Stars?

This Hubble Space Telescope archival photo captures a curious linear feature that is so unusual it was first dismissed as an imaging artifact from Hubble’s cameras. But follow-up spectroscopic observations reveal it is a 200,000-light-year-long chain of young blue stars. A supermassive black hole lies at the tip of the bridge at the lower left. The black hole was ejected from the galaxy at the upper right. It compressed gas in its wake to leave a long trail of young blue stars. Nothing like this has ever been seen before in the universe. This unusual event happened when the universe was approximately half its current age. Credits: NASA, ESA, Pieter van Dokkum (Yale)

The formation of these newborn stars is likely the result of the Supermassive Black Hole striking with great force into gas in space.

There is a column extending from the black hole to the parent galaxy, at the end of the column, there is a bright spot of ionized oxygen.

Researchers believe that the gas is being heated and shocked either by the black hole’s movement through it or by radiation from an accretion disk around the black hole, however, the exact mechanism is not yet understood.

We think we’re seeing a wake behind the black hole where the gas cools and is able to form stars. So, we’re looking at star formation trailing the black hole”

Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University

Typically, Black Holes gobble up anything in their sight, however, it is not as such in this case as the Black Hole is moving too fast to take a snack. 

The discovery of this phenomenon is “pure serendipity”, as van Dokkum puts it, while looking for globular star clusters in a nearby dwarf galaxy, he noticed a little streak. 

“I immediately thought, ‘Oh, a cosmic ray hitting the camera detector and causing a linear imaging artifact.’ When we eliminated cosmic rays we realized it was still there. It didn’t look like anything we’ve seen before.” says Pieter Van Dokkum.

Origin of the “Star-maker” Supermassive Black Hole

Astronomers report that two galaxies collided nearly 50 million years ago, causing a merge of the two supermassive black holes that were present at their respective galactic centers causing them to form a binary system of black holes whirling around.  

Later, another galaxy collided with the system of galaxies and caused the merge of another supermassive black hole into the 2 black holes whirling around. 

Like the idiom, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd”, the system of these 3-black holes whirling around each created large instability in their configuration, and one of these black holes began to rob momentum from the system causing it to skyrocket out into space. 

The possibilities are such that the original binary system remained intact and the latter got thrown, or the new black hole now remained with one of the original members of the binary system and the other exited. 

When the black hole skyrocketed, it caused the binary black holes to shoot off in the other direction, the absence of any signs of a supermassive black hole at the center of the host galaxy and binary black hole-like feature on one end of the host galaxy provided evidence to the claim. 

References

  1. Andrea Gianopoulos,’Hubble Sees Possible Runaway Black Hole Creating a Trail of Stars’, NASA, 6 April 2023, “There’s an invisible monster on the loose, barreling through intergalactic space so fast that if it were in our solar system, it could travel from Earth to the Moon in 14 minutes”, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2023/hubble-sees-possible-runaway-black-hole-creating-a-trail-of-stars[]
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