Colliding Galaxies May Have Ejected a Black Hole

First Posted: Nov 19, 2014 01:31 PM EST

Astronomers may have just discovered a black hole that was ejected from a galaxy. The researchers have spotted a mysterious object that could either be a black hole, or a giant star that's exploding over an exceptionally long period of several decades.

What's interesting is that if it is a black hole, scientists might learn a bit more about the gravitational waves predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity. While this theory hangs on the existence of gravitational waves, physicists have yet to detect them directly. Ultimately, the researchers need to measure the tiniest of compressions and extensions of space which arise when gravitational waves pass through it. Even using the high-precision measuring equipment of the future, it's possible that only waves with a corresponding level of intensity might be detectable, such as those formed during the fusion of two merging black holes.

If two galaxies head toward each other and collide, they merge into one. This causes the two supermassive holes in their centers to fuse. If the general theory of relativity holds true, then the gravitational waves are formed and spread out in space. If the black holes are spinning at different speeds, though, the waves will be emitted asymmetrically, giving the fused black hole a "kick" that will propel it outside the galaxy.

Astronomers have long searched for these recoiling black holes, but have been unsuccessful thus far. Yet this newly detected object could be just that. The object itself is named SDSS1133 and is located about 90 million light-years from Earth.

Currently, though, scientists aren't sure whether the object is a black hole or some kind of long-duration supernova. Currently, the researchers hope to search for the answer with future observations and studies. They're planning on using the Hubble Space Telescope in order to measure the light coming from the object more precisely.

The findings are published in the journal Molecular Cell.

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