A Black Hole Leaves Home

The article I found for this conceptual objective is from skyandtelescope.com. The title of this article is “Gravitational Waves Dethrone Supermassive Black Hole.”

This article is about how astronomers have discovered a black hole that was not in the usual place a black hole is found, at the center of its galaxy. The astronomers believe that the black hole may have been forced out of its usual place by gravitational waves that it created. The black hole, which is now considered a quasar, named 3C 186, was found to be offset from its host galaxy by about 1.3 arcseconds. That 1.3 arcseconds means that the quasar is 35,000 light years from the host galaxy. Astronomers have surmised that the speed at which the quasar must be traveling and the fact that it is so offset from its galaxy’s center means that the black hole was formed by two original black holes colliding and merging, which would have created the gravitational waves that would have subsequently kicked the supermassive black hole out of its galaxy seat. Interestingly enough, two black holes colliding is apparently a fairly common occurrence in the universe. Right now astronomers will use 3C 186 to help solve something called “The Final Parsec Problem,” which will help determine how two massive black holes are able to merge.

Our conceptual objective is that I can explain how astronomers study the properties of stars, including: distance, size and mass. I’m going to use this article to connect the conceptual objective part about distance. There is already some information included in the article that connects to this, since the article mentions arcseconds and parsecs. The article stated that the quasar 3C 186 is 1.3 arcseconds away from its host galaxy. That would mean that the distance between ourselves and the star is about 1 parsec, since 1 parsec equals 1 arcsecond. How this is found is we look at the position of the quasar from Earth, lets say in January. We then compare that to the position of the host galaxy and how it looks from Earth. We can then use these positions and compare them to where they are 6 months later. The difference in the locations of the quasar vs. the host galaxy is the parallax angle. Since the parallax angle would be about 1 arcsecond, we know that the distance to the quasar is also 1 parsec.

This was a pretty thought provoking article. I had no idea that it was possible for a black hole to be ejected out of its seat at the center of a galaxy. As far as my knowledge stretched, I was always under the impression that black holes are the strongest celestial objects in the universe. I thought that they sit right where they form, pulling everything and anything in towards them. I mean, I have always heard that nothing, not even light, can escape the gravity of a black hole. So the knowledge  that there are forces that could force a black hole, a supermassive black hole at that, out of the galaxy and into space is fascinating. It’s also kind of horrifying to know that there are rogue black holes floating around the universe.


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