A team of scientists working with the ALMA telescope has made a huge discovery about a massive black hole.
Black holes provide astronomers with one of the most consistent sources of mystery, but a recent study sheds a new light on the stellar phenomenon. According to a report from Discovery News, a team of scientists working with the ALMA telescope have provided one of the most accurate measurements of the weight of a black hole at the center of an elliptical galaxy named NGC 1332, located roughly 75 million light-years from the Earth.
Finding the weight of a black hole is admittedly difficult. Researchers devised a method that allowed the ALMA, or Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, located in Chile, to determine the weight by measuring the galactic gases swirling within the black hole’s gravitational well.
According to Aaron Barth, a researcher at the University of California, Irvine and the study’s lead author, “To calculate the mass of a black hole in a galaxy’s center, we need to measure the speed of something orbiting around it. For a precise measurement, we need to zoom in to the very center of a galaxy where the black hole’s gravitational pull is the dominant force.”
The black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 1332 was found to be a staggering 660 million times the mass of our own sun.
The discovery offers new insights into the study of black holes and provides a new method for allowing astronomers to gauge their mass. Previously, astronomers relied on measuring the visible light emanating from the ionized gases in hot accretion disks surrounding black holes, but the turbulence of these regions provided a high degree of inaccuracy.
By measuring the cold molecular gas, scientists can eliminate a large degree of uncertainty in their final figures. The work of the ALMA team will certainly lead to fascinating new insights about the black holes scattered throughout the universe.
A press release from the University of California, Irvine describing the details of the study can be found here.