Nov
02
2007

Blacked out: Super black holes may be holding our galaxies together

Galactic glue: Are supermassive black holes holding our galaxies together? That's the conclusion many astronomers are coming to as they study these huge, massive sites at the core of many galaxies. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Galactic glue: Are supermassive black holes holding our galaxies together? That's the conclusion many astronomers are coming to as they study these huge, massive sites at the core of many galaxies. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
The black hole: our metaphor du joir to describe something that completely sucks up another thing.

But new research is re-examining black holes and the impact they play in space. Not only are they sucking up old space materials, but they may be spitting out new galactic bodies and holding complete galaxies together.

UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez is at the hub of this new research. Using some of the most technically advanced telescopic equipment available, for four years she’s been watching and reporting on new black hole phenomena. And she may have uncovered a new, more powerful type of black hole, the “supermassive” black hole.

She and others who are studying the same things now postulate that most of the universe’s galaxies have “supermassive” black holes at their center. These mega-black holes have gravitational fields that are hundreds of thousands of times stronger than the conventional black hole.

While research for a long time has chronicled how regular black holes can eat up stars, planets and even light, the new supermassive black holes might also be celestial body creators. Just like what often happens to us after eating a big meal, these super-sized black holes belch out jets of energized particles and radiation over a distance of millions of light years, creating new galaxies and celestial bodies.

If your sitting there starting to feel a mysterious uncomfortable tug on you, don’t worry. Here in the Milky Way it’s believed we have a very small, dormant supermassive black hole holding our galaxy together. It’s about 27,000 light years away from us and is relatively small, having the mass of about 4 millions suns. And there’s no evidence that it is spewing out any jets of radiation and energy particles.

More on supermassive black holes

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JARVIS's picture
JARVIS says:

I thought black holes pulled things into them not sucked them in. Its the gravitational force from too much mass in to small of a space. I also don't believe its holding the galaxies together either. It might keep them on the same path they are on now, but eventually they will collide or get pulled into the black hole.

posted on Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:46am
Ren's picture
Ren says:

Pulled. Sucked. It's really a matter of semantics. It does the same thing, it's just what sort of colorful language you use to describe it.

The really important thing to remember about black holes is that we really know very little about them. They were for a very long time purely theoretical and it's only recently (the last 30-50 years I think) that we've found proof of them. You've got to keep an open mind on what a black is or isn't, on what it can or can't do. We really don't know much and what we do know is still largely theoretical.

posted on Thu, 02/28/2008 - 7:19pm

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