Scientists Spot Supermassive Black Hole Moving at 110,000 Miles Per Hour

For the first time in history, scientists spotted a moving black hole.

For the first time in history, researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (USA) clearly recorded the case of a supermassive black hole moving in outer space.


Although we cannot see how objects move in space, it is a fact that everything is in motion. I’m not just talking about planets, moons, or small celestial objects. Even galaxies are in constant motion, including our Milky Way.

Even so, until yesterday, there was no scientific evidence that black holes can move too.

Such theories have been around for years, but the overall perception of black holes was that they stood still due to their enormous mass. In a recent study, scientists reported the first-ever recorded case of a supermassive black hole moving through space.

The black hole within the center of the Galaxy Messier 87 which became the first black hole to be photographed by the Event Horizon Telescope. Credit: EHT
The black hole within the center of the Galaxy Messier 87 which became the first black hole to be photographed by the Event Horizon Telescope. Credit: EHT

A black hole is a region of space-time, which is distinguished by such a great gravitational force that even objects moving at the speed of light cannot leave its limits. Scientists identify two realistic scenarios for the formation of black holes:

• shrinking a massive star
• compression of the center of the galaxy

In the case of a star, a black hole is only its final stage in life. It is formed when the star has used up all its thermonuclear fuel and begins to cool down. At the same time, the internal pressure decreases, contributing to compression under the influence of gravity.

Sometimes this compression becomes very fast – it turns into gravitational collapse. A black hole can arise from a star whose mass is at least 3 times the mass of the Sun.

Scientists finally find a moving supermassive black hole

Here is Galaxy J0437+2456 which is home to a moving supermassive black hole. Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
Here is Galaxy J0437+2456 which is home to a moving supermassive black hole. Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)

Astronomer Dominic Pesce and his team have observed supermassive black holes for 5 years. By observing the speeds of galaxies and black holes, scientists tried to find out if they are the same. If there is a mismatch, this will indicate that there has been some change in the black hole. The study examined 10 distant galaxies and the black holes in their cores.

The focus of the study was only black holes that had water in their accretion disks. Such black holes are easier to observe because the moving water produces a beam of radio light that makes it easier to indicate any changes within the black hole. It also makes it possible to measure the speed of a black hole.

Little did they know that one of the black holes would stand out because it is on the move. Located at a galaxy named J0437-2456, this supermassive black hole has 3 million times the mass of our Sun.

It was possible to confirm the assumption about the motion of the black hole thanks to further observations, which were carried out at the Arecibo and Gemini observatories.

Scientists have found that the supermassive black hole is moving at a speed of about 110,000 miles per hour. What exactly provokes the movement of the object is still unknown. But the researchers have several assumptions. It could be the merger of two supermassive black holes, or the object is part of a binary system.


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Sources:

O’Neill, M. (2021, March 12). Astronomers detect a supermassive black hole on the move – unusual motion thus far unexplained.
Pesce, D. W. (2021, March 12). A Restless Supermassive Black Hole in the Galaxy J0437+2456.
Whitehead, N. (2021, March 12). Astronomers find supermassive black hole on the move.

Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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