Among the biggest mysteries regarding space, black holes are still a subject riddled with question marks. One of the most confusing is supermassive black holes, which are millions, even billions, of times the mass of our sun. Black holes form from the cores of huge stars, so a new discovery could help provide clarity as to why. Found in a dwarf galaxy 110 million light-years away, scientists found one of the smallest supermassive black holes to date.
Science Alert reports the black hole resides in galaxy Mrk 462. Measuring in at 200,000 times the sun’s mass, it is significantly smaller than its peers. Speaking at Dartmouth College, astronomer Jack Parker spoke about the find’s rarity. “This black hole in Mrk 462 is among the smallest of the supermassive, or monster, black holes. Black holes like this are notoriously hard to find.”
At a glance, the find may not seem significant, but this could provide insight as to how black holes grow. Scientists now suggest supermassive black holes grow from stellar-mass seeds less than 100 times the mass of our sun. This differs from conventional thought of them forming incredibly large to begin with and continuing to grow.
This theory encourages scientists to look at other dwarf galaxies to confirm the theory. Unfortunately, their small size presents a problem. “Because buried black holes are even harder to detect than exposed ones, finding this example might mean there are a lot more dwarf galaxies out there with similar black holes,” said Ryan Hickox from Dartmouth College.
Regardless, this find is undoubtedly important to the scientific community.
Astronomers Discover Tiny Black Hole Outside the Milky Way
The latest black hole discovery is one of many within the past few months. Another occurred a few months ago after astronomers discovered a small black hole beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
Astronomers made the discovery with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Sitting on a desert mountain in northern Chile, scientists aimed it at NGC 1850, a cluster roughly 160,000 light-years away from Earth. Looking for signs of a black hole, they saw subtle blips in a star’s motion there, Space.com reports. It appears a tiny black hole around 11 times our sun’s mass was the culprit.
Astronomers state they will begin using this technique of observing surrounding stars to locate black holes. Sara Saracino, a Liverpool John Moores University in England astrophysicist, remains hopeful they will discover more this way. “The result shown here represents just one of the wanted criminals,” she said. “But when you have found one, you are well on your way to discovering many others, in different clusters.”