Hubble Space Telescope images "runaway Black Hole"


There's an invisible monster on the loose, barreling through intergalactic space so fast that if it were in our solar system, it could travel from Earth to the Moon in 14 minutes. This supermassive black hole, weighing as much as 20 million Suns, has left behind a never-before-seen 200,000-light-year-long "contrail" of newborn stars, twice the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy. It's likely the result of a rare, bizarre game of galactic billiards among three massive black holes.

Rather than gobbling up stars ahead of it, like a cosmic Pac-Man, the speedy black hole is plowing into gas in front of it to trigger new star formation along a narrow corridor. The black hole is streaking too fast to take time for a snack. Nothing like it has ever been seen before, but it was captured accidentally by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

I mean, hell, that's just a provocative lede. Good on that press team for leaning all the way in. I can't really comment on the validity of the theory that this in fact what the photograph reveals. But I can compliment some solid PR prose when I see it. Maybe it's a little over-wrought, sure. But it's lush enough that I'll allow it.

According to researchers, the image was sort of stumbled on by accident while analyzing images obtaining by the Hubble telescope. Pieter van Dokkum, an astrophysicist at Yale, was searching for some "globular star clusters" in a dwarf galaxy when he noticed a strange streak across the cosmos. At first, he assumed it was a cosmic lens flare of sorts — or, in his exact words, "I immediately thought, 'oh, a cosmic ray hitting the camera detector and causing a linear imaging artifact.'" But after closer examination, he and other researchers realized it was actually the wake left behind by a Black Hole blasting through the galaxy.

Hubble Sees Possible Runaway Black Hole Creating a Trail of Stars [NASA]