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Big ole black hole


Like many children, when I was younger I dreamed of being an astronaut. The thought of flying into “outer space” to see all kinds of planets and moons was the coolest thing to me in the world and, honestly, it’s still pretty much the coolest thing to me in the world. As I got older, I began to learn more about the solar system and became especially fixated on something called black holes.

Black holes basically rule out everything that we could learn from physics. They are formed from the cores of supermassive stars once they collapse. And there’s something called escape velocity, which means that the larger the mass, the faster you have to travel to escape its pull. With that in mind, this means that black holes are so massive that nothing can escape them, including light. (To make this even more intense, please don’t forget how fast the speed of light is at 186,000 miles per second.)

To further understand black holes, we can look at dear Mr. Einstein who developed the general theory of relativity. This theory states that gravity affects time, which means that the more massive an object (a.k.a. has a greater gravitational pull), the more it can slow down time. So, obviously, since black holes have the highest gravitational pulse, the concept of time is completely diminished. Essentially, there’s no time.

Crazy, huh?

According to Science News, astronomers just announced that the biggest “supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies are at least twice and possibly four times as heavy as previously estimated.” This means if we apply what we learned earlier, that the gravitational pull of black holes is even more intense than we had suspected.

Does this really matter?

Well actually, yes. Scientists are using these reports to determine whether the growth of these black holes has anything to do with the maximum growth of their respective galaxies. Scientists are continuously trying to figure out why black holes in nearby galaxies and galaxies far, far away (i.e. where “Star Wars” took place) differ in size so greatly.

The problem scientists are looking to fix has to do with quasars. According to Space.com, quasars are bright, quickly-forming galaxies characterized by vast star formation. Because of all the developing stars, many become black holes, which, in turn, greatly affect the mass of their galaxy. Scientists have the capability to measure many of these galaxies but were finding that many of their measurements were off.

Due to this new finding, scientists believe many of their calculations were wrong and must be multiplied accordingly. The heaviest supermassive black hole to date is weighs 6.4 billion times what Earth’s sun weighs. It’s in a galaxy named M87, which is 50 million light-years away.

Galaxy M87 has been the topic of discussion for many decades. According to Space.com about three decades ago it was one of the only galaxies believed to have a black hole at its center. Now astronomers believe that our Milky Way galaxy may center around a black hole. M87 was one of the galaxies with an incorrect mass measurement, but once it recalculated for the new development, everything lined up.

Not to say that any of these findings will greatly affect the general public, but learning about other galaxies always brings me back to my childhood…or it makes me want to watch “Star Wars.” And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to travel deep into the Milky Way. But we don’t want to get sucked into a big black hole!