NASA has I dropped a new animation To give you a real sense of the scale of space dominated by a supermassive black hole.
This is the giant of the universe. giants located in the centers of galaxies; Gravitational cores around which stars swirl in an orbital dance measured in eons. They start at about 100,000 times the mass of the Sun, on the lower end of the scale, and can reach tens of billions of solar masses at most.
These abstract numbers are all well and good, but it’s hard to visualize just how huge these things actually are. And this is one of the great mysteries of the universe: although we have some ideas, we don’t really know how they got there.
Direct measurements, made with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, confirm the existence of more than 100 supermassive black holes. says theoretical astrophysicist Jeremy Schnittman From NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “How does it get so big? When galaxies collide, their central black holes may eventually merge together, too.”
In fact, black holes themselves may not be very big after all. Black holes are the most massive objects in the universe that we know of. It is so compact that we can only mathematically describe it as a singularity – a one-dimensional point of infinite density. Their density is so intense that space-time is gravitationally warped into what is effectively a closed sphere around them. Within this sphere, even light does not have enough speed to escape.
This is what we refer to when we talk about the dimensions of a black hole, its boundary known as the event horizon. The larger the black hole, the greater the radius of the sphere defined by the event horizon, known as the Schwarzschild radius. If the sun were a black hole, for example, then it is It will be the Schwarzschild radius Only 2.95 kilometers (1.8 miles).
As far as we know, the smallest black holes start around them five times the mass of the sunObjects formed from the collapsed core of a massive star at the end of its life. These are stellar mass black holes.
Stellar-mass black holes have an upper limit of about 65 times the mass of the Sun, because the extremely massive precursor stars that would produce these larger objects end their lives in Binary instability supernova Which completely wipes out the core, leaving nothing behind to collapse into the black hole.
However, we have seen black holes with a stellar mass greater than that of 65 solar masses. They can form when black holes collide and merge, resulting in an object with combined mass. But how we get from these black holes to supermassive supermassive black holes is a lot of empty space. Quite literally. There is a strange paucity of detected black holes in the mass range between stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes.
border frame=”0″allow=”accelerometer; auto start; Clipboard write. gyroscope encoded media; picture in picture; web sharing “allowfullscreen>”.
But there’s a huge range in supermassive black holes, too. NASA’s new animation is a stunning look at this scope, starting with a black hole in a dwarf galaxy called J1601+3113, which hosts a black hole around it. 100,000 solar masses. This would give it a Schwarzschild radius of just under half the size of the Sun. The black hole’s shadow extends into the space around the event horizon, resulting in a darker region roughly twice its size, which means that in the video, this shadow appears to be about the same size as the Sun.
We also see the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, about 4.3 million solar masses. There’s also M87*, the first black hole ever imaged, which has a much larger mass 5.37 billion suns.
There are also two black holes hanging in the center of the same galaxy, NGC 7727. Once upon a time, NGC 7727 were two galaxies. Now that they have come together, the two black holes at the galactic cores – 154 million and 6.3 million solar masses, respectively – have sunk into the center of the newly merged galaxy, where they will one day also merge.
These black holes are a big piece of evidence that astronomers believe tells us one way supermassive black holes grow is that their mergers should produce gravitational waves. However, the frequency of these mergers is too low for our current tools to detect.
One of the largest known black holes in the universe is the monster known as TON-618. In 2004, scientists measured its mass to an enormous level 66 billion solar masses. There is an upper theoretical mass limit for black holes 50 billion solar massesbut the universe is very good at defying theoretical predictions.
At this mass, the black hole would have a Schwarzschild radius of over 1,300 astronomical units. For context, Pluto has an orbit around 40 astronomical units from the sun. This thing will swallow the solar system hundreds of times over.
Fortunately it is very far. Its light is estimated to be 10.8 billion years old, so it won’t be lurking to do any dunks in our corner of space. We think we speak for everyone when we say in a resounding voice: Phew.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”