Astronomers have uncovered a near-record-breaking supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe. The observations, made by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, could indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought.
The velocity measurements were made by the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North 8-meter telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. GMOS spectroscopically dissected the light from the galaxy's center, revealing stars within 3,000 light-years of the core. Some of these stars are circling around the black hole and avoiding close encounters. However, stars moving on a straighter path away from the core suggest that they had ventured closer to the center and had been slung away, most likely by the twin black holes.
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
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University of California, Berkeley, California
Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany