Dec. 5, 2012, noonView more articles
A black hole has a gravitational force so strong that not even light can escape it. Most large galaxies play host to a supermassive black hole – Sagittarius A* is found in our own Milky Way. Astronomers have proposed that the relationship between the mass of a black hole and the size of its galaxy can help to explain their evolution.
However, scientists have recently observed a black hole 17 billion times the mass of our Sun that challenges their current theories.
The discovery was made 220 million light years away from Earth, in galaxy NGC 1277, using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas. Astronomers survey unimaginable swathes of space in search of black holes. What makes the black hole of NGC 1277 so astonishing is not simply its supermassive size, but the relationship of its mass to that of its host galaxy. NGC 1277 is just a quarter of the size of the Milky Way and yet the black hole at its centre is amongst the largest ever found. The size of a black hole was thought to typically correlate to 0.1% of the mass of the surrounding galaxy - until now: the black hole of NGC 1277 appears to be an enormous 59% of the size of its galaxy.
The discovery of a seemingly disproportionately large black hole poses a challenge to existing theories about the evolution of galaxies.
Explore more about black holes and outer space with Twig's related films below.