The Hubble Space Telescope may have detected a supermassive black hole that is now hurtling through space and leaving behind a plume of newborn stars. The object, which is estimated to be 20 million times more massive than the Sun, is believed to have been forcibly ejected from its galaxy after colliding with other supermassive black holes. A black hole is now traveling through space at such a speed that it can cover the distance between the Earth and the Moon in just 14 minutes.
Despite its destructive reputation, this black hole produced an amazing chain of newborn stars stretching 200,000 light years. The discovery was made by a group of scientists led by Pieter van Dokkum, a professor of astronomy at Yale University, who came across the phenomenon while studying Hubble images taken for another project.
Further analysis revealed that the black hole was likely ejected from its galaxy after merging with two other supermassive black holes to form a binary object 50 million years ago when two different galaxies merged. The addition of a third galaxy with its own supermassive black hole destabilized the gravitational configuration, causing one of the black holes to be ejected and become a rogue.
The team hopes to find more such black holes that have “escaped” from their galaxy to study their growth and evolution using machine learning algorithms. They also hope to learn more about the gas that surrounds galaxies, as the gas ejected from the black hole’s separation has led to the formation of newborn stars in its wake.