Is it possible that an as yet undetected galaxy-sized black hole exists somewhere in the distant universe? The reality may actually prove to be something even more bizarre. On July 26, The Daily Galaxy reported on the discovery forty years ago of a supermassive black hole powering microquasar SS 433, some 5,000 times the size of our Solar System located about 18 000 light-years away in the constellation of Aquila (The Eagle).
This past April, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team unveiled humanity’s first image of a supermassive black hole –described as the Gates of Hell and the End of Spacetime– the picture of galaxy Messier 87’s central supermassive black hole. A monster the size of our solar system, and bigger, with the mass of six and a half billion suns, with a ring of gas—in hues of red, orange, and yellow—glowing around it, the shadow cast by the event horizon, predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
The April event was as epic as the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, with the world viewing its first image of what had once been purely theoretical, a black hole at the heart of galaxy M87, the size of our solar system, and bigger, with the mass of six and a half billion suns that was captured by a lens the size of planet Earth and 4,000 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. M87’s black hole is frozen in time it was 55 million years ago, because it’s so far away the light took that long to reach us.
“Over those eons, we emerged on Earth along with our myths, differentiated cultures, ideologies, languages and varied beliefs,” says astrophysicist Janna Levin with Columbia University.
Astronomers have theorized that the galaxy that harbors the black hole grew to its massive size by merging with several other black holes in elliptical galaxy M87, the largest, most massive galaxy in the nearby universe thought to have been formed by the merging of 100 or so smaller galaxies. The M87 black hole’s large size and relative proximity, led astronomers to think that it could be the first black hole that they could actually “see.”
Paradoxically, the smallest objects in the known universe
Black holes, paradoxically, the smallest objects in the known universe, have outsize effects on entire galaxies. Black holes are where the quantum world and the gravitational world come together, says Shepard Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope director and astronomer with the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. They are “the central mystery of our age, a one-way door out of our universe.”
“What’s inside is a singularity, where all the forces become unified because gravity finally is strong enough to compete with all the other forces—the strong, weak, and electromagnetic. But we can’t see the singularity. “The universe has cloaked it in the ultimate invisibility cloak. We don’t know what happens in there.”
Or, as described by Ellie Mae O’Hagan with The Guardian,“the point at which every physical law of the known universe collapses. Perhaps it is the closest thing there is to hell: it is an abyss, a moment of oblivion.”
On June 7, 2019 The Daily Galaxy reported on the discovery of a black hole that is growing so rapidly that it’s as luminous as 700 trillion suns, shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy due to all of the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat.
How this drainpipe into eternity grew to such mass so early after the Big Bang is a profound puzzle for physics. “If this monster was at the center of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it,” said Christian Wolf, with the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics who made the momentous detection.
”It would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon, an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky. It’s probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in.” So bright, that it is blinding our view and we can’t see the galaxy itself.
Devours a mass equivalent to our sun every two days
This newly observed object is known officially as SMSS J215728.21-360215.1 In May of 2018 , astronomers at ANU found this fastest-growing black hole known in the universe, describing it as a monster that devours a mass equivalent to our sun every two days. The astronomers have looked back more than 12 billion years to the early dark ages of the Universe, when this supermassive black hole was estimated to be the size of about 20 billion suns with a one per cent growth rate every one million years.
More recently, astronomers have observed a super massive black hole, 700 million light years away, in the center of a super-giant elliptical galaxy This black hole is growing so rapidly that it’s as luminous as 700 trillion suns, shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy due to all of the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat. How this drainpipe into eternity grew to such mass so early after the Big Bang is a profound puzzle for physics.
Would likely make life on Earth impossible
“If this monster was at the center of the Milky Way it would likely make life on Earth impossible with the huge amounts of x-rays emanating from it,” said Wolf. ”It would appear 10 times brighter than a full moon, an incredibly bright pin-point star that would almost wash out all of the stars in the sky. It’s probably 10,000 times brighter than the galaxy it lives in.” So bright, that it is blinding our view and we can’t see the galaxy itself.
More recently, astronomers have detected a super massive black hole (SMBH) that’s 40 billion times more massive than our Sun that if situated in the center of our Solar System it would extend out to Pluto and beyond. The SMBH lies center of a super-giant elliptical galaxy called Holmberg 15A, about 700 million light years away, in the center of the Abell 85 galaxy cluster.
But Holmberg 15A pales in comparison to the Ultra Massive Black Hole (UMBH) at the center of TON 618, an extremely luminous quasar over 10 billion light years away. This monster is 66 billion times more massive than the Sun. But that UMBH was measured indirectly, so its mass measurement might be revised.
Embedded within a vast sphere of black holes
Does a supermassive black hole exist that’s as big as a galaxy? The reality might be something even more bizarre.
Astrophysicists say there’s most likely a limit of about 50 billion solar masses before its disc of gas collapses and it stops growing. But if two black holes merge that have already reached that limit, then a UMBH that’s up to 100 billion solar masses may be possible, not quite a galaxy, but still incomprehensible by mere mortal homo sapiens.
In a 2016 post, The Daily Galaxy reported that according to Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, black holes formed in the universe’s first fraction of a second — “could work as dark matter,”
“If this is correct,” said Kashlinsky, “then all galaxies, including our own, are embedded within a vast sphere of black holes each about 30 times the sun’s mass.”
“Future LIGO observing runs will tell us much more about the universe’s population of black holes, and it won’t be long before we’ll know if the scenario I outline is either supported or ruled out,” Kashlinsky said. He leads the science team centered at Goddard that is participating in the European Space Agency’s Euclid mission, which is currently scheduled to launch in 2020.