Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Science

Monster Black Hole Busts Theory 248

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-bob-and-vincent dept.
Genocaust writes "A stellar black hole much more massive than theory predicts is possible has astronomers puzzled. Stellar black holes form when stars with masses around 20 times that of the sun collapse under the weight of their own gravity at the ends of their lives. Most stellar black holes weigh in at around 10 solar masses when the smoke blows away, and computer models of star evolution have difficulty producing black holes more massive than this. The newly weighed black hole is 16 solar masses. It orbits a companion star in the spiral galaxy Messier 33, located 2.7 million light-years from Earth. Together they make up the system known as M33 X-7."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Monster Black Hole Busts Theory

Comments Filter:
  • by Raul654 (453029) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:46PM (#21020183) Homepage
    If theory says that black holes beyond 10 solar masses cannot form, how do they explain the conjectured supermassive black holes [wikipedia.org] at the center of our and other galaxies?
    • by RuBLed (995686) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:52PM (#21020243)
      It seems that they are in separate divisions/classes. This should explain it.

      While 16 solar masses is hefty for a stellar black hole, it is miniscule compared with the black holes thought to lie in the heart of many large galaxies. Such "supermassive" black holes have masses millions to billions times that of our sun, but they are thought to form by mechanisms different from the stellar variety.
    • by shawn(at)fsu (447153) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:52PM (#21020245) Homepage
      They mentioned that in the article. Mister Scientist thinks their are different mechacisms at work that produce the super massive black holes at the centre of galaxies. I was wondering though, is it possible that a black hole of this mass could me produces in a trinary solar system where two black holes merge, in this case leaving you with a 16 solar masses and orbiting the remain star?
      • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:20PM (#21020503) Homepage Journal
        What if you have an n-ary system in which two or more supermassive stars are sufficiently close together that after the supernova, the total mass exceeds 10 solar masses even though no individual star did? (Since the star cores would merge at the common center of gravity, they would behave as a single remnant of the combined mass, NOT as individual collapsing objects.) Alternatively, if the black hole forms in a regular fashion but is in a dense enough zone - or a zone that has an obscenely large number of extra-solar supermassive planets - that it absorbs six or more solar masses before it can evaporate a comparable amount of mass, you'd reach the desired mass. Thirdly, my guess is that all simulations assume point singularities (probably the most common kind, assuming black hole theory is correct), which means that they won't be including Kerr Ring singularities or any of the other Really Weird Forms that have been predicted.

        I'm sure that there are ways to fudge things so that the desired mass can be reached. Or, there again, the simulations could be wrong. That happens, for all that Michael Fish wishes otherwise. Well, maybe not. He stands to make a lot of money from his new book because of that fiasco.

        • by gomiam (587421) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @01:23AM (#21021267)
          Reading the article, it seems that the computer models of supernovas would strip all those supermassive planets of their gaseous layers, if not blow the planets themselves away. The problem isn't the black hole being that big (that's a symptom), the problem is how do you make a star go nova "softly" like this one would have done.

          And, yes, it seems the simulations are wrong. That's why it's hard for the current nova theories (read models) to create a black hole this big.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tablizer (95088)
        I was wondering though, is it possible that a black hole of this mass could me produces in a trinary solar system where two black holes merge, in this case leaving you with a 16 solar masses and orbiting the remain star?

        If I am not mistaken, the largest stars tend not to be binary/trinary. Once the mass gets past a certain point, it upsets the harmonics needed to make doubles and triples. However, I can't find any verification of this mentally rusty snippet of info.
        • by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:55PM (#21020773) Homepage Journal
          Another issue is the unlikely chance of paired stars crashing into each other. After one partner blows its top at the end of life, it usually loses some mass such that the distance between them INcreases, making them even less likely to touch or enter friction zones. (Being a black hole by itself does not increase its gravitational pull over a star of the same mass). If they are going to merge, they would more likely do so during the regular life, and we'd see samples of such massive stars. But we don't, mainly because there is an upper limit to the size of a stable star.

          Further, large stars have short lives, meaning that the time for friction to rub them closer to each other is shorter.

          However, it is true that a collision of two big mid-life stars may itself trigger a supernova because the total mass exceeds a stable size, and thus a very large black hole is formed. This may result in a black hole that *looks* like it came from a star larger than the max stable size of a star because its exceeding the stable limit itself is what triggered the formation of the hole. In short, there may be a limit to stable star size, but not to unstable star size.
             
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:44PM (#21020677)
        Just FYI: after binary comes TERNARY, not trinary. Don't feel bad, though, it's a very common mistake which I myself have made before being corrected.
      • by dwater (72834) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @12:20AM (#21020927)
        > their are

        you misspelled 'arse'.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ILuvRamen (1026668)
      I was thinking the same thing. And you know how they get that big? By forming and then sucking up tons and stars around them. And who says this one didn't form differently? It's in a binary system now but trinary systems exist. And don't say "but it didn't suck up 6 stars." They just said in the article that some stars can be 20 solar masses. That's a really badly named unit lol.
      • So .. that's the way things were done 2.7 million years ago. Well, back when I was just a lad...

        As a kid studying cosmology I was once told that you only needed 3 solar masses of imploding stellar material to make a black hole.

        Are there any theories to cover black holes made up of say, more than one galaxy? Is there any upper limit?

        (Clears throat)"Beyond the blue Event Horizon, Heechee waiting for meeeee..."

        • (Clears throat)"Beyond the blue Event Horizon, Heechee waiting for meeeee..."

          I LOL'D ... hard =D.

          /fabulous book

          //ditto the game by Legend Ent.

        • by lgw (121541)
          There's no theoretical upper limit from what I've read, however it can be hard to explain how large black holes can form given the current age of the universe. Given a few trillion years, large black holes should be common.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by nospam007 (722110)
        Just like us, stellar black holes are getting fatter, they need a diet.
    • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:00PM (#21020319) Homepage
      If theory says that black holes beyond 10 solar masses cannot form, how do they explain the conjectured supermassive black holes

      Like This [universetoday.com].

      Or, more pedantically, black holes may never form at all [newscientist.com] from the point of view of an observer outside the event horizon.
      • by jotok (728554)
        From TFA:

        There could be a way to test the new theory. The Large Hadron Collider being constructed at CERN in Geneva might just be capable of making microscopic black holes - or, if Vachaspati is right, black stars.

        Goody. This should end well.

        Unlike the large, long-lived black holes in space, these microscopic objects would evaporate fast. The spread of energies in their radiation might reveal whether or not an event horizon forms.

        What exactly does "evaporate" mean when referring to black holes (stars)?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by the.Ceph (863988)
          IANAAP(I am not an astro physicist) but my understanding of it is that black holes give off a form of radiation called Hawking Radiation. As Hawking Radiation escapes the black hole its mass slowly decreases because (E=mc^2 etc). Eventually the black hole will radiate all of its mass and will have essentially evaporated.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Likely they are referring to Hawking Radiation [wikipedia.org].
    • by Goosey (654680)
      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar-mass_black_hole [wikipedia.org]

      There are different categories of Black Holes. The very wikipedia article you linked to mentioned this in the 'Formation' Section:

      - Black holes of this size can form in several ways. The most obvious is by slow accretion of matter (starting from a black hole of stellar size).

      TFA refers to an unexpected size for a Stellar-class Black Hole.
    • by Tablizer (95088)
      Agreed, that is an oddity in the story. However, I think it works like this. OUTSIDE of the center of galaxies, stars don't collide very often. Black holes have no more mass than the stars they came from (usually less because lots explode into space), and even big stars don't hit other stars very often at all. And, large stars are fairly rare, most are medium (sun-like) and smaller, reducing chances of large collisions even further. (Having lots of gravity improves collision chances a bit, but not significa
      • It seems to me that black holes with a mass between 10 and 1,000,000 suns are rare but obviously not unheard of. We have also (indirectly) observed at least one star being sucked into the BH at the center of the milky way.

        It seems patentently obvious that this particular BH ( and another one I read about that was ~40sols ) somehow gained mass after forming. But scientists being the skeptical critters they are prefer evidence over supposition since that is how theories are strengthened or discarded. Astro
    • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:49PM (#21020723) Homepage
      *Stellar* black holes are black holes that originate from the aftermath of a single star going supernova.

      Super-massive black holes like what exist at the center of a galaxy don't have a well understood origin, but it is supposed that if a black hole is created in a region of space with a great deal of matter in the vicinity, it may gobble up a lot of it, adding to its mass until it becomes super-massive.

      A stellar black hole that's so big it shouldn't be possible for it to have been created by the usual supernova, and in a region of space sufficiently vacant to rule out the gobbling theory, is what is being puzzled over.
      • by ozbird (127571) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @01:04AM (#21021183)
        A stellar black hole that's so big it shouldn't be possible for it to have been created by the usual supernova, and in a region of space sufficiently vacant to rule out the gobbling theory, is what is being puzzled over.

        The region of space is vacant now - it doesn't mean that it was when the black hole was feeling peckish.
      • by rhizome (115711)
        Super-massive black holes like what exist at the center of a galaxy don't have a well understood origin, but it is supposed that if a black hole is created in a region of space with a...

        Isn't it funny how we don't even capitalize "black hole?" I'll bet anybody that in 500 years people are going to read our words and tell each other, "...they believed in these things called 'Black Holes!'" It'll be like the flat earth days.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by digitig (1056110)

          Isn't it funny how we don't even capitalize "black hole?"
          Why would we? I can't think of any of the standard capitalisation rules that would apply. Unless your name happens to be Black Holes.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by anno1602 (320047)
        An alternative explanation is that the supermassive black hole might have formed directly. On formation, so much mass accumulated so quickly that it directly collapsed into a black hole, bypassing the star stage entirely.
    • But nothing prevents them from being in existence since the beginning of the universe.

      The existing theories only limit how black holes can be formed from less dense materials.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      If theory says that black holes beyond 10 solar masses cannot form, how do they explain the conjectured supermassive black holes [wikipedia.org] at the center of our and other galaxies?

      A wizard did it. [tvtropes.org]

  • In the Dark (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ArcherB (796902) * on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:50PM (#21020215) Journal
    I wonder if this is where all that "dark matter" is. Scientist keep talking about how there is so much more matter than what we can detect. Well, we haven't been able to detect this until now. How much more is missing, I wonder.

    It amazes me at how much we DON'T know.
    • Technically, there is a difference between dark matter and and matter so dense its dark. Think of dark matter as "matters at hand in the universe in which we're still in the dark." On second though, "terra incognita" is a much better analogy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ArcherB (796902) *
        Technically, there is a difference between dark matter and and matter so dense its dark. Think of dark matter as "matters at hand in the universe in which we're still in the dark." On second though, "terra incognita" is a much better analogy.

        Well, I wasn't talking about black holes being made from dark matter, but like you said, matter we were "in the dark" about or matter than we are unable to detect. Well, evidently, we were in the dark of about 75% of the matter than can exist in black holes. It wasn't
    • by value_added (719364) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:34PM (#21020611)
      It amazes me at how much we DON'T know.

      The following may help to explain things (taken from an Slashdot post):

      Indeed. In fact there is no light either. The Sun sucks dark. In fact it
      sucks dark so hard that the friction of the dark moving to the Sun
      causes the Sun to be very hot. The flow of dark towards the Sun
      interrupted by the Earth causes the side of the Earth away from the Sun
      to accumulate dark, thus causing Night. As the Earth rotates the dark
      caught on the night side can then be pulled off, this causing the
      absence of dark known as Day.

      What we call light bulbs are truly dark suckers as well. That is why
      light bulbs are hot, just like the Sun. When a light bulb is full of
      dark and won't suck dark any more, it cools off. If you look in old
      light bulbs you can even seen the accumulation of dark.

      Dark is also heavier than water. This can be seen in the oceans where
      the deeper you go the darker it gets.
      • by m2943 (1140797)
        It sounds silly, but at least it has the nucleus of a falsifiable theory (exercise: think about how you would falsify it experimentally if you simply didn't know and why it can't be true). That's better than a lot of the "serious" theories that are floating around.
    • by terrymr (316118)
      Everybody knows that the missing matter in the universe is packing peanuts.
    • by kestasjk (933987)

      I wonder if this is where all that "dark matter" is. Scientist keep talking about how there is so much more matter than what we can detect. Well, we haven't been able to detect this until now. How much more is missing, I wonder.

      It amazes me at how much we DON'T know.

      Maybe these dark holes are proof of string theory, because they formed from strings that resonate at the same frequency and so they all join together and resonate at a larger amplitude, and this is what makes them seem so massive.

      Or maybe you and I aren't astrophysicists and we shouldn't talk about how much "we" don't know, and let the people who know what they're talking about do the theorizing.

  • Welcome our new 16 solar mass, inside of gigantic super universe is really a giant black hole singularity, with that weird ship from the Disney movie stuck inside, along with the tv game show host and his once she was really hot but now is sorta aging and still has trouble stacking baby blocks especially inside the 1000G black hole overlords.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:51PM (#21020233)
    They should name it Goatse.
  • by Speare (84249) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:52PM (#21020239) Homepage Journal

    Sturgeon's Law (paraphrased): 90% of everything sucks.

    Just goes to show, that when you think it can't suck any worse, you find it can suck a LOT worse.

  • Did we link a start gate to it or is linked to a ori super gate?
  • by robinsonne (952701) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:04PM (#21020359)
    It orbits a companion star in the spiral galaxy Messier 33

    It's not messy, it's got a lived-in, homey feel to it you insensitive clod!!!
  • Did we link a stargate to it or is linked to a ori super gate?
  • by glwtta (532858) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:07PM (#21020391) Homepage
    The extra mass is Dark Mass, right?

    After all, that's how we deal with all cosmological phenomena we don't understand - prefix it with "Dark" and you're all set!
  • by confused_demon (1161841) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:18PM (#21020479)
    For this discussion it's worth keeping in mind that current computer models have real problems actually getting supernovae to explode. At one point it was so bad that I heard someone say, "If it weren't for the fact that we occasionally observe one explode, I would assure you that they cannot." It's only been in the last couple of years that someone has made a computer model that actually did it.
    • by Leperous (773048) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:57AM (#21023427) Homepage
      "It's only been in the last couple of years that someone has made a computer model that actually did it."

      Not true. As a numerical relativitist, I can tell you that no decent 3D simulations of supernovae currently exist.

      Half the problem is that the physics is simply unknown - is it sufficient for your model to contain rotation, magnetic fields, and what about the equation of state of the plasma? Neutrinos are also thought to play an incredibly important role in the supernova explosion mechanism, and subsequent nucleosynthesis (and other processes) that go on during the supernova event itself. The other half is the sheer computing power to evolve your equations over decent time scales with enough resolution, not to mention making sure the numerical methods you employ work.

      There are plenty of groups who are currently working towards 3D evolutions without any neutrino transport, and I think some people have done neutrinos in 1D. Try checking out some of the work by Leibendorfer [arxiv.org], for example.

      A quick run down of the supernova event though, since the article skims over it very lightly: heavy elements gradually build up at the core (nickel and iron especially), and nuclear fusion shuts down due to their high binding energies [wikipedia.org]. As a result, outwards pressure ("thermal support") is lost, and at some critical moment the core will rapidly collapse onto itself (on a timescale of less than a second) as gravity becomes the dominant force. The outer layers will also in-fall onto this collapsing core.

      Depending on the mass of the star, we'd expect the core to collapse into some kind of 'proto' neutron star, or straight into a black hole, if it's massive enough. In the case of the former, neutrinos escaping from the cooling central proto neutron star deposit energy into the outer layers, and drive the actual supernova explosion-event. In the case of the latter, I'm not sure that you'd actually see much of a supernova since neutrinos wouldn't be able to escape from a black hole - or at least the explosion mechanism would be different. There is an 'intermediate' option though: a proto neutron star that later on collapses into a black hole, from the still in-falling outer layers. If this happens you'd expect both a black hole, and pretty violent supernova to boot.

      I'm not sure about the numbers presented in the article either. Typically, stars above 8 solar masses will collapse and create a supernova and neutron star remnant. Stars over 20 solar masses should form a neutron star which later collapses into a black hole (as is the case here). Stars over 50 solar masses or so will probably just collapse straight into a black hole, with unknown supernova mechanisms.

    • by EricWright (16803)
      Two of the "someone's" are John Blondin at NCSU and Tony Mezzacappa at Oak Ridge National Labs. Here's a link to a press release [ornl.gov] from ORNL giving a very brief overview of the research project.

      Full disclosure: John was my PhD thesis advisor, and I did my research on the evolution of supernova remnants well after the initial explosion. I graduated in the 90s, back when such high-res 3D simulations were merely dreams.
  • This could be a random steller collision. It's gotta be rare, but still an occurance, when two stars collide. In this case, a largish black hole collides with another star, and the star gets incorporated into it.
  • I'm assuming that its out of the question that this binary star/black-hole system was, at one point, a trinary system?

  • computer models of star evolution have difficulty producing black holes more massive than this

    Maybe they need to buy more PS3's [slashdot.org]

  • by gozu (541069) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:41PM (#21020647) Journal
    Well, science has been vainquished, therefore proving the existence of God once and for all.

      But...

    ONCE AND FOR ALL!

  • hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @11:45PM (#21020687)
    One black hole consumes another black hole creating one gigantic gravitational singularity. Case closed.
    • that could be the case though I wonder what the probability of two seperate black holes getting close enough to merge like that. Even better then that is that this one in particular is part of a multi-star system- what is to say that it didn't siphon off material from another much larger star?
      • by jabuzz (182671)
        Probably very low. Then again how many odd sized black holes have we observed (it appears to be exactly one), yet we know there are billions of stars in just our galaxy, and that there are billions of galaxies. So even if the probablity of it happening is very low, it still going to happen somewhere and to deny what is being observed is not possibly the outcome of such an event is rather silly. In fact if I where to apply Occams razor I would say that this is the most likely explanation. Until we start find
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kingrames (858416) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @12:59AM (#21021165)
      your black hole theory sucks.
  • From TFA :

    Black holes can't be seen, because all matter and light that enters them is trapped. So black holes are detected by noting their gravitational effects on nearby stars or on material that swirls around them.

    The companion star of M33 X-7 passes directly in front of the black hole as seen from Earth once every three days, completely eclipsing its X-ray emissions.

    OK, I have a basic understanding of the x-rays produced, but seriously, shouldn't the above confuse most lay-people who might read t

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @12:10AM (#21020877)
      Black holes don't produce x-rays, but the material falling into them does produce x-rays which, since they're produced outside the black hole, can escape.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by galt23 (1175641)
        Words like "produce" and "consume" are bad science words. Mostly used in docudrama style tv shows and movies using snippets of science to achieve an end goal: make more money by scaring the crap out of people. Black holes do not EMIT xrays, or anything else that we know of (although they must be emitting something if you believe like Hawking, that black holes can and do lose mass and eventually dissipate) . Xrays are EMITTED by material (gases) falling into a black hole, being heated as they move and ga
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          Care to expand on your objection to the word "produce?"

          Or are you just being unnecessarily pedantic?
    • shouldn't the above confuse most lay-people
      Why would it? As far as the typical non-scientist is concerned, you can't see X-rays, so they aren't light.
  • by Osty (16825)

    I blame the King of All Cosmos and his damned tennis racquet. Time to start rolling up all your junk.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @12:51AM (#21021121)
    ...computer models of star evolution have difficulty producing black holes more massive than this...

    Perhaps they need to upgrade to another OS [slashdot.org] better optimized for modeling black holes... Unless they're saving this for modeling those super-massive ones.

  • Just don't link the image please.
  • "Something we really don't know all that much about turns out somewhat different than we expected."

    News at 11? We have a long way to go with cosmology, I just don't get how surprised people seem when we get a surprise.
  • There's no escaping here, I'm gonna beat you out of shape,
    like a fucking black hole even light can't escape.
    Got the mind to bust a rhyme to make your brain bleed,
    other rappers talk shit, but they gotta concede
    that I'm a three sandwich eatin', super-model meetin';
    step to me punk and you're gonna get a beatin'.
  • I think we just figured out where Rosie O'Donnell disappeared to...
  • Astrophysicists just make stuff up. They have no way to test any theories, no way to watch anything unfold on a cosmic scale, and no way of knowing what may have mangled the light their telescopes see by the time it reaches us. I read a great article on it once written by an astrophysicist who basically said it was the most fun branch of science because you could just make wild and crazy stuff up.

    As long as you can cram your square peg theory into the round hole we see through our telescopes, it becomes acc
  • by mark-t (151149) <[markt] [at] [lynx.bc.ca]> on Thursday October 18, 2007 @12:52PM (#21027099) Journal

    ... to this story and I couldn't help but agree.

    After all, with it being 2.7 million light years away, we certainly know that this story couldn't have been breaking news any later than the end of the last great ice age.

One good suit is worth a thousand resumes.

Working...