Surprise: Dwarf galaxy harbors supermassive black hole

Jan 09, 2011
The dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10, seen in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope. The central, light-pink region shows an area of radio emission, seen with the Very Large Array. This area indicates the presence of a supermassive black hole drawing in material from its surroundings. This also is indicated by strong X-ray emission from this region detected by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Credit: Reines, et al., David Nidever, NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- The surprising discovery of a supermassive black hole in a small nearby galaxy has given astronomers a tantalizing look at how black holes and galaxies may have grown in the early history of the Universe. Finding a black hole a million times more massive than the Sun in a star-forming dwarf galaxy is a strong indication that supermassive black holes formed before the buildup of galaxies, the astronomers said.

The galaxy, called Henize 2-10, 30 million light-years from Earth, has been studied for years, and is forming stars very rapidly. Irregularly shaped and about 3,000 light-years across (compared to 100,000 for our own Milky Way), it resembles what scientists think were some of the first galaxies to form in the early Universe.

"This galaxy gives us important clues about a very early phase of that has not been observed before," said Amy Reines, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia.

Supermassive black holes lie at the cores of all "full-sized" galaxies. In the nearby Universe, there is a direct relationship -- a constant ratio -- between the masses of the black holes and that of the central "bulges" of the galaxies, leading them to conclude that the black holes and bulges affected each others' growth.

Two years ago, an international team of astronomers found that black holes in young galaxies in the were more massive than this ratio would indicate. This, they said, was strong evidence that black holes developed before their surrounding galaxies.

"Now, we have found a with no bulge at all, yet it has a supermassive black hole. This greatly strengthens the case for the black holes developing first, before the galaxy's bulge is formed," Reines said.

Reines, along with Gregory Sivakoff and Kelsey Johnson of the University of Virginia and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Crystal Brogan of the NRAO, observed Henize 2-10 with the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array radio telescope and with the Hubble Space Telescope. They found a region near the center of the galaxy that strongly emits radio waves with characteristics of those emitted by super-fast "jets" of material spewed outward from areas close to a black hole.

They then searched images from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory that showed this same, radio-bright region to be strongly emitting energetic X-rays. This combination, they said, indicates an active, black-hole-powered, galactic nucleus.

"Not many dwarf galaxies are known to have massive black holes," Sivakoff said.

While central black holes of roughly the same mass as the one in Henize 2-10 have been found in other galaxies, those galaxies all have much more regular shapes. Henize 2-10 differs not only in its irregular shape and small size but also in its furious star formation, concentrated in numerous, very dense "super star clusters."

"This galaxy probably resembles those in the very young Universe, when galaxies were just starting to form and were colliding frequently. All its properties, including the , are giving us important new clues about how these black holes and formed at that time," Johnson said.

The astronomers reported their findings in the January 9 online edition of Nature, and at the American Astronomical Society's meeting in Seattle, WA.

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User comments : 9

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QuantaUniverseCom
1.4 / 5 (9) Jan 09, 2011
dwarf galaxies have fewer stars and less gas and dust, so to maintain the obvious galaxy EM flat spiral magnetized dusty gas shapes, they invent dark matter halos around the galaxy for 9 times more invisible and missing gravity for fictional particles that cannot react with light nor matter. EM forces in plasma labs produce jets to replace inferred black holes
StillWind
2.2 / 5 (9) Jan 09, 2011
So...let's take a completely atypical cosmic structure, and use it to infer how typical structures evolved...
Yeah...not seeing how there could be issues or contradictions here.
MorituriMax
1.3 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2011
Hmmm, could Black Holes be causing the dust around them to interact with each other, thus forming stars as the dust is agitated by the black holes?
Terrible_Bohr
5 / 5 (7) Jan 09, 2011
dwarf galaxies have fewer stars and less gas and dust, so to maintain the obvious galaxy EM flat spiral magnetized dusty gas shapes, they invent dark matter halos around the galaxy for 9 times more invisible and missing gravity for fictional particles that cannot react with light nor matter. EM forces in plasma labs produce jets to replace inferred black holes

Plasma cosmology theory doesn't fit the observed abundance of light elements, though. Dark Matter may be an affront to your sensibilities, but what does the Universe care about any of that?
marcin
1 / 5 (4) Jan 09, 2011
'A Mystery’s process is the universe.
At first was laid a strange anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought:
Into its forms the Child is ever born
Who lives for ever in the vasts of God.
A slow reversal’s movement then took place:
A gas belched out from some invisible Fire,
Of its dense rings were formed these million stars;
Upon earth’s new-born soil God’s tread was heard.'

Sri Aurobindo predicted the primacy of the matrix nought in his spiritual poem 'Savitri', p. 100 f., as
cited above.
thales
4.7 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2011
The primacy of the matrix. Sounds like a nerd-core band.
frajo
not rated yet Jan 10, 2011
Plasma cosmology theory doesn't fit the observed abundance of light elements, though.
Yes.
Dark Matter may be an affront to your sensibilities,
What matters more is the yearning of this hypothesis to not only be princeps inter pares (among other hypotheses) but to be the only heir to the throne of celestial mechanics.
but what does the Universe care about any of that?
Obviously, it doesn't care too much about our attempts to understand the dynamic relationship between galactic structures and the central blackhole.
MorituriMax
3 / 5 (4) Jan 10, 2011
Hmmm, could Black Holes be causing the dust around them to interact with each other, thus forming stars as the dust is agitated by the black holes?

Ranked 1 of 5, how exactly do you give a rating of 1 to an honestly asked question?
Tuxford
1 / 5 (4) Jan 10, 2011
No, black holes form before galaxies BECAUSE galaxies grow from nucleation therefrom. The massive core star seeds the galaxy, not the reverse. How many more observations will it take before the obvious is acknowledged??? Here is a good example of a new galaxy forming rather rapidly via this mechanism.

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