Astronomers from the University of Texas and the University of Arizona have discovered a fast-growing black hole in one of the most extreme galaxies known at the edge of the Universe.
The discovery of the galaxy and the black hole at its center provide new clues about the formation of the first supermassive black holes. The new work is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Using observations made with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a radio observatory located in Chile, the team has determined that the galaxy, named COS-87259, containing this new supermassive black hole is very extreme, forming stars at a rate of 1,000 times more than our Milky Way and containing more than a billion solar masses of interstellar dust. The galaxy shines as much from this intense burst of star formation as from the growing supermassive black hole at its center.
The black hole is considered to be a new type of primordial black hole, heavily covered in cosmic “dust”, emitting almost all of its light in the mid-infrared of the electromagnetic spectrum. Researchers have also discovered that this growing supermassive black hole (often called the active galactic nucleus) generates a powerful jet of material that travels at close to the speed of light through its host galaxy.
Today, at the center of almost every galaxy are black holes with masses millions to billions of times that of our Sun. How these supermassive black holes formed remains a mystery to scientists, especially since several of these objects have been found when the Universe was very young. Because light from these sources takes so long to reach us, we see them as they existed in the past; in this case, just 750 million years after the Big Bang, which is roughly 5% of the current age of the Universe.
What is most surprising about this new object is that it has been detected in a relatively small area of the sky (less than 10 times the size of the full Moon), suggesting that there could be thousands of similar sources in the early Universe. This is a totally unexpected finding from previous data.
The only other class of supermassive black holes we knew of in the early Universe were quasars, active black holes relatively poorly hidden by cosmic dust. These quasars are extremely rare at distances similar to that of COS-87259, with only a few dozen located across the entire sky. The surprising discovery of COS-87259 and its black hole raises several questions about the abundance of very early supermassive black holes, as well as the types of galaxies in which they typically form.
Ryan Endsley, lead author of the paper and now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas said in a statement: “These results suggest that early supermassive black holes were often heavily obscured by dust, perhaps as a consequence of intense activity. of star formation in their host galaxies. This is something that others have been predicting for some years now, and it’s nice to see the first direct observational evidence supporting this scenario.”
Similar objects have been found in the more local current Universe, such as Arp 299 shown here. In this system, two galaxies collide with each other generating an intense starburst, as well as a strong dimming of the growing supermassive black hole in one of the two galaxies.
Endsley adds: “While no one expected to find this type of object in the early Universe, its discovery is a step towards a much better understanding of how billion-solar-mass black holes could have formed so early in the life of the Universe, as well as how the most massive galaxies first evolved.”
There’s one last place Planet Nine could be hiding
A study recently submitted to The Astronomical Journal
continues to search for the elusive Planet Nine (also called Planet X),
which is a hypothetical planet that potentially orbits in the outer
reaches of the solar system and well beyond the orbit of the dwarf
The goal of this study, which is available on the pre-print server arXiv,
was to narrow down the possible locations of Planet Nine and holds the
potential to help researchers better understand the makeup of our solar
system, along with its formation and evolutionary processes. So, what
was the motivation behind this study regarding narrowing down the
location of a potential Planet 9?
Dr. Mike Brown, who is a Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of
Astronomy at Caltech and lead author of the study, tells Universe Today,
“We are continuing to try to systematically cover all of the regions of
the sky where we predict Planet Nine to be. Using data from Pan-STARRS
allowed us to cover the largest region to date.”
Pan-STARRS, which stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid
Response System, is a collaborative astronomical observation system
located at Haleakala Observatory and operated by the University of
Hawai’i Institute of Astronomy. For the study, the researchers used data
from Data Release 2 (DR2) with the goal of narrowing down the possible
location of Planet Nine based on findings from past studies.
In the end, the team narrowed down possible locations of Planet Nine
by eliminating approximately 78% of possible locations that were
calculated from previous studies. Additionally, the researchers also
provided new estimates for the approximate semimajor axis (measured in
astronomical units, AU) and Earth-mass size of Planet Nine at 500 and
6.6, respectively. So, what are the most significant results from this
study, and what follow-up studies are currently being conducted or
“While I would love to say that the most significant result
was finding Planet Nine, we didn’t,” Dr. Brown tells Universe Today. “So
instead, it means that we have significantly narrowed the search area.
We’ve now surveyed approximately 80% of the regions where we think
Planet Nine might be.”
In terms of follow-up studies, Dr.
Brown tells Universe Today, “I think that the LSST is the most likely
survey to find Planet Nine. When it comes online in a year or two it
will quickly cover much of the search space and, if Planet Nine is
there, find it.”
LSST stands for Legacy Survey of Space and Time, and is an
astronomical survey currently scheduled as a 10-year program to study
the southern sky and take place at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in
Chile, which is presently under construction.
Objectives for LSST include studying identifying near-Earth asteroids
(NEAs) and small planetary bodies within our solar system, but also
include deep space studies, as well. These include investigating the
properties of dark matter and dark energy and the evolution of the Milky
Way galaxy. But what is the importance of finding Planet Nine?
Dr. Brown tells Universe Today, “This would be the 5th
largest planet of our solar system and the only one with a mass between
Earth and Uranus. Such planets are common around other stars, and we
would suddenly have a chance to study one in our own solar system.”
Scientists began hypothesizing the existence of Planet Nine shortly
after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, including an 1880 memoir
authored by D. Kirkwood and later a 1946 paper authored by American
astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh, who was responsible for discovering Pluto in
More recent studies include studies from 2016 and 2017 presenting
evidence for the existence of Planet Nine, the former of which was
co-authored by Dr. Brown.
This most recent study marks the
most complete investigation of narrowing down the location of Planet
Nine, which Dr. Brown has long-believed exists, telling Universe Today,
“There are too many separate signs that Planet Nine is there. The solar
system is very difficult to understand without Planet Nine.”
He continues by telling Universe Today that “…Planet Nine explains
many things about orbits of objects in the outer solar system that would
be otherwise unexplainable and would each need some sort of separate
“The cluster of the directions of the orbits is the best know, but
there is also the large perihelion distances of many objects, existence
of highly inclined and even retrograde objects, and the high abundance
of very eccentric orbits which cross inside the orbit of Neptune. None
of these should happen in the solar system, but all are easily
explainable as an effect of Planet Nine.”
Michael E. Brown et al, A Pan-STARRS1 Search for Planet Nine, arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2401.17977
‘October Surprise’: Russia To Launch Nukes in Space
The ‘national security threat’ announced on Wednesday is
about Russia planning to launch nuclear weapons in space, causing some
to speculate whether it’s really an election year ploy.
The panic began when House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner
(R-Ohio) asked President Biden to declassify information about a
“serious national security threat”.
Modernity.news reports: The weapon would reportedly be designed to be used to take out satellites.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) responded by telling reporters he wanted “to assure the American people, there is no need for public alarm.”
The big, scary threat is serious business and involves a space-based nuke controlled by evil dictator Putin, but it’s also “not an immediate crisis,” according to what three members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee have told Politico.
Okay, then. Just for election season, is it?
Zero Hedge reports: “So, the question is – was this:
a) a distraction from Biden’s broken brain, or
2) a last desperate attempt to get more funding for anything-but-the-US-border, or
iii) a path to pitching Putin as the uber-bad-guy again after his interview with Tucker Carlson.”
Just by coincidence, Mike Turner recently returned from Ukraine having lobbied for billions more in weapons and aid for Zelensky’s government.
Some questioned the timing, suggesting it might all be a deep state plot to keep American voters afraid when they hit the ballot box.
Speculation will now rage as to whether this is “the event,” real or imagined, that billionaires and elitists the world over have been building underground survival bunkers in preparation for.
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