Impossible: Astronomers left baffled

 

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a supermassive black hole that defies current theories about the universe and shouldn't actually exist.

The mysterious black hole is located in the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147 and weighs around 250 million times more than the Sun.

The phenomenon of the NGC 3147 black hole has been described in the astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The black hole is encircled by a thin disk, made up of debris and gas that races around the edge of the hole.

It is this disk that is confusing astronomers because it technically shouldn't be there.

This is because the black hole is actually 'starving' because not enough material is being captured by its huge gravitational field and 'hungry' black holes don't form disks of material - or so scientists thought.

Lead author of the study Stefano Bianchi said: "It's the same type of disk we see in objects that are 1,000 or even 100,000 times more luminous.

"The predictions of current models for gas dynamics in very faint active galaxies clearly failed."

The first ever picture of a black hole in the galaxy M87, released by astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope. CREDIT: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration For Martin George space column for Hobart Mercury
The first ever picture of a black hole in the galaxy M87, released by astronomers using the Event Horizon Telescope. CREDIT: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration For Martin George space column for Hobart Mercury

The black hole, which is about 130 million light-years from Earth, has a disk of debris spinning around at casual 18,628 miles per second - that's 10% of the speed of light.

Spotting this disk has given astronomers the chance to see two of Einstein's theories on relativity in action and could help them to understand the process that happens at the edge of black holes.

Bianchi said: "This is an intriguing peek at a disc very close to a black hole, so close that the velocities and the intensity of the gravitational pull are affecting how we see the photons of light."

The researchers will now be looking for more galaxies with black holes like this in the hope of explaining the phenomenon.

The study of black holes is important because they are the biggest and the most powerful objects in the entire universe.

They have the power to create, sustain and destroy but we still know little about them.

Event Horizon Telescope director Sheperd Doeleman described them as: "A one-way door from our universe."

In other space news, astronomers missed an enormous 3,300ft asteroid circling near Earth for decades - and blame its strange orbit.

Astronomers have created a 'cosmic cheat sheet' which could help both experts and amateur stargazers search for alien life.

And, here's why some people still think the Moon landings were faked 50 years later - and the man who started the 'hoax' theory.

This story was originally published in The Sun and is reprinted with permission.



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