Scientists amazed at the calculated mass of a black hole

Scientists amazed at the calculated mass of a black hole

Precise measurement of massive black hold's mass made possible by ALMA.

Scientists, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, have been able to calculate the mass of a black hole located in a distant galaxy and are amazed at the finding, according to a story on

The massive black hole, located about 75 million light years from Earth in a galaxy known as NGC 1332, surprised the estimators by coming in at a calculated 660 million times the mass of our own Sun.

The ALMA, the largest and most powerful observatory in the world, didn’t look directly at the massive black hole, but enabled the researchers to get a precise view of the gasses swirling around the monster.

Lead author of the study, Aaron Barth, of the University of California-Irvine, said in the report, “To calculate the mass of a black hole in a galaxy’s center, we need to measure the speed of something orbiting around it.  For a precise measurement, we need to zoom in to the very center of a galaxy where the black hole’s gravitational pull is the dominant force.”

Barth added, “ALMA is a fantastic new tool for carrying out these observations.”

Since black holes are so dense even light cannot escape their pull, scientists are not able to view any objects within them, so they are forced to make some calculations indirectly.  One method involves measuring the emissions of the heated gas trapped in the accretion disk of the black hole, and another is evaluating the effect of warping space and time, or bending the light around the behemoths.

In this particular case, the researchers were able to view a cloud of cold molecular gas near the black hole of NGC 1332.  By using the distance of the cloud from the black hole and clocking its speed, the team was able to estimate the mass of the black hole, and it was impressive.

The mass of other black holes has been calculated in the past using the other methods mentioned, but because of the turbulent nature of the gasses that reside in the accretion disks, they were not thought to be as accurate as this new method.

These new tools can give researchers a more precise measurement of the gigantic monsters present in distant galaxies across the universe.



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