Scientists have discovered a "fast and furious" super-powered small black hole, the first that scientists have been able to closely examine.
According to a press release issued last week by the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), researchers are excited about the black hole, MQ1, because it is smaller than they expected based on how powerful it is. The system is located in nearby spiral galaxy M83, which looks a lot like our Milky Way galaxy. Aside from its surprisingly small size, just 62 miles across, M1 is standard as far as powerful black holes -- dense matter that creates a gravitational field so strong even light can't escape it -- go.
The international research team used a number of telescopes to glean evidence of the black hole. According to The International Business Times, the research group was able to detect and measure the strength of the black hole's jets by examining the "bubble" of heated gas around them. Said Curtin University senior research fellow Dr. Roberto Soria, who lead the team studying MQ1, "We inferred a huge jet power, a few million times higher than the total power of the sun." Dr. Soria describe it as a "microquasar -- a black hole surrounded by a bubble of hot gas, which is heated by two jets just outside the black hole, powerfully shooting out energy in opposite directions, acting like cosmic sandblasters pushing out on the surrounding gas." You know, just your run-of-the-mill super-powerful black hole. He continues:
The significance of the huge jet power measured for MQ1 goes beyond this particular galaxy: it helps astronomers understand and quantify the strong effect that black hole jets have on the surrounding gas, which gets heated and swept away. This must have been a significant factor in the early stages of galaxy evolution, 12 billion years ago, because we have evidence that powerful black holes like MQ1, which are rare today, were much more common at the time. By studying microquasars such as MQ1, we get a glimpse of how the early universe evolved, how fast quasars grew and how much energy black holes provided to their environment.
Though MQ1 itself is relatively small, the jets surrounding it span wider than our entire solar system. The stellar mass black hole is probably the remains of a supernova explosion, or what the dead star left behind, and is about ten times as powerful as the strongest black hole in our galaxy.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.