Itty Bitty Galaxy Home to Gargantuan Supermassive Black Hole

By Andrew Moseman | January 11, 2011 3:35 pm

One of these things is not like the other: Astronomers have spotted a dwarf galaxy that spans just 3,000 light years across (as opposed to our Milky Way’s diameter of 100,000 light years), but hosts an outsize supermassive black hole for its puny size.

From DISCOVER blogger Phil Plait:

Some smaller galaxies have supermassive black holes as well, but in general these dwarf galaxies have some structure to them, with a well-defined core. Henize 2-10, as you can see, it a mess! It doesn’t have much overall structure, which is why it’s classified as an irregular galaxy. The thinking for big galaxies is that the black hole forms at the same time as the galaxy itself, and to regulate the growth of each other. When you look at lots of big galaxies, there’s a pretty clear overall correlation between the mass of the black hole and the galaxy around it.

So it’s pretty weird that Henize 2-10 has a supermassive black hole at all, but it turns out the hole is also about a million times the mass of the Sun — that’s pretty freakin’ big for such a tiny galaxy! That’s 1/4 the mass of our own black hole, in a galaxy that itself is far smaller than ours.

For more details about this weird galaxy, check out the rest of this post at Bad Astronomy. And for more galaxy-black hole weirdness, read last week’s 80beats post about whether mergers of galaxies truly cause supermassive black holes to become hyperactive.

Related Content:
80beats: Study: Hyperactive Black Holes Aren’t Caused by Galactic Smash-ups
80beats: LHC’s Lack of Black Holes Rules Out Some Versions of String Theory
80beats: Far-Off Quasar Could Be the Spark That Ignites a Galaxy
80beats: Researchers Spot an Ancient Starburst from the Universe’s Dark Ages

Image: Reines, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA

  • dcwarrior

    If all galaxies have black holes, as I understand the current thinking goes, this one was better than most at “eating” the gas around it early on. So might there be supermassive black holes out there between the galaxies that were even better at eating their ancestral gas and are floating around out there with no galaxy around them?

  • rabidmob

    At roughly 1/4 the mass of Sagittarius A I wouldn’t say it was better at eating the gas around it.

  • Anonymous

    [This comment was deleted for being off-topic.]

  • J Hallaran

    The wonders of Outer Space are infinite. David Levy and Carl Sagan are worth reading about if you have the opportunity.

  • Dennis Cowdrick

    Always with the Black Hole when conventional astronomy cannot account for the structure and rotation of these objects. What if there were a natural force 10^40 times as strong as gravity –oh WAIT there is — its called the Electric force! May I suggest a quick search for the Plasma and Electric Universe viewpoints. If Electric forces dominate – and I think they do – then there is no need for imaginary Black Holes, Neutron Stars nor Dark Matter. Gravity is the weakest know force. In my opinion, it cannot theoretically compete with more reasonable explanations for Galaxy and Star formation based on well know and laboratory validated electrical interactions in Plasma.

  • Kevin

    Looks like *someone’s* parts aren’t proportional….


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