‘Monster black hole’ found in smallest galaxy known to astronomers

18 Sep 2014

Artist's view of M60-UCD1 black hole. Image via NASA, ESA, STScI-RCC14-41a

NASA astronomers have been left dumbfounded after they discovered what they describe as a ‘monster black hole’ within one of the smallest galaxies yet discovered in the visible universe.

Via the Hubble Space Telescope, the astronomers discovered the supermassive black hole, which is about five times the size of the black hole that exists within the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy.

What makes this black hole unique, according to NASA, is the fact it exists within the galaxy designated M60-UCD1, the densest one visible in the universe with more than 140m stars contained within a region of space only 3,000 light years across.

In comparison, from Earth at night, we should be able to see about 4,000 stars in the Milky Way, yet if we were within this galaxy, we would see 1m.

This new black hole also has a mass of 21m suns, which makes up the around 15pc of the approximate mass of the entire galaxy.

Aside from the implication that supermassive black holes could exist in similar dwarf galaxies, it also suggests they may have been created after a collision between two larger galaxies with the dwarf system being its outcome.

Anil Seth, a University of Utah astronomer and author of the paper detailing the findings, said the astronomers can only assume a massive collision caused such an event.

“We don’t know of any other way you could make a black hole so big in an object this small.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic