There’s a “runaway” black hole is tearing through the universe — and NASA is calling it an “invisible monster on the loose.”
“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,” NASA wrote in a release.
The supermassive black hole created a never-before-seen trail of stars, leaving behind a 200,000-light-year-long “contrail” of newborn stars twice the diameter of the Milky Way.
It’s pushing into gas in front of it to create the new star formation in a narrow corridor rather than eating up the stars ahead of it.
“The black hole is streaking too fast to take time for a snack,” NASA quipped.
It’s assumed that the trail created a lot of new stars since it’s almost half as bright as its host galaxy.
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The “invisible monster” is located at the end of the column of its parent galaxy, with a “remarkably bright knot” of ionized oxygen at the outermost tip.
“We think we’re seeing a wake behind the black hole where the gas cools and is able to form stars. So, we’re looking at star formation trailing the black hole,” Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University said. “What we’re seeing is the aftermath. Like the wake behind a ship we’re seeing the wake behind the black hole.”
Scientists believe either gas is being shocked and heated from the motion of the black hole or an accretion disk around the black hole is causing radiation.
“Gas in front of it gets shocked because of this supersonic, very high-velocity impact of the black hole moving through the gas. How it works exactly is not really known,” van Dokkum said.
NASA said nothing like it has ever been seen before, and the Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare sighting “accidentally.”
Van Dokkum was actually looking for globular star clusters in a nearby dwarf galaxy when he spotted the black hole. He described the trail of stars as “quite astonishing, very, very bright and very unusual.”