Thursday, November 29, 2012

Galactus Must Feeeeeeed

Space is full of really oddball things. For example, there's this one planet with a whole bunch of critters running around on it. How many planets do you know of that can say that?

Today you're presented with the latest really oddball thing: a black hole. Now, you may already know that there's a black hole at the center of the Milky Way, or at least, there's suspected to be one. It's believed that most, if not all, galaxies have one at their center. Bust most of them are comparatively pretty tiny when placed up against their galaxies. Typically, the central black hole will take up about 0.1% of the galaxy's central core. The record size to date is about 11%.

Well, that was the record until now. The title belt has now been spaghettied into a singularity by the black hole in the center of NGC 1277, which has been calculated at 59%. And what's more, there are five galaxies nearby that might have similar stories, which is interesting in and of itself, because the team gathered at the University of Texas- which discovered the black hole (after quite a bit of rechecking their figures because the size was so far out of whack with everything else that they figured they had to have gotten it wrong somehow)- didn't think galaxies influenced each other like that.

The thinking beforehand- which is now open for re-examining- is that the size of a black hole was linked to the size of its accompanying galaxy: as a galaxy grows, the black hole gets more material to feed on, but when the black hole eats too quickly, it generates a big wind that blows the galaxy clear of it, which in turn limits the galaxy's further growth and the black hole's future menu. That, clearly, has not happened here. There is an alternative explanation ready to go- essentially, that the growth is merely steady according to age and this is just a really, really old black hole.

But then, both explanations- and the next one, and the next one, and the next one- could all very well be wrong too. That's fine. After all, we do know how discovery works.

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