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Space Science

Do Solo Black Holes Roam the Universe? 135

Posted by Soulskill
from the cosmic-nomads-with-eating-disorders dept.
sciencehabit writes "Two mysterious bright spots in a disheveled, distant galaxy suggest that astronomers have found the best evidence yet for a supermassive black hole being shoved out of its home. If confirmed, the finding would verify Einstein's theory of general relativity in a region of intense gravity not previously tested. The results would also suggest that some giant black holes roam the universe as invisible free floaters, flung from the galaxies in which they coalesced. Although loner black holes may be an entity that has to be reckoned with, they would still be rare."
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Do Solo Black Holes Roam the Universe?

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  • And the other day - turns out tons of hydrogen gas not previously observed in voids. Sooner or later, that obvious bit of "curve over-fitting" that required the mysterious dark matter might just have to go away. That would be cool - it was obviously a bandaid on a cancer in the theory.

    • by yndrd1984 (730475)

      turns out tons of hydrogen gas not previously observed in voids ... the mysterious dark matter might just have to go away

      Put your toys away, son. A million, billion, trillion tons wouldn't even show up as a rounding error when it comes to dark matter.

      • Duh, but that was not the GPs point. They are finding additional %s. Brown dwarfs, extra H2 in the voids etc. Anything is possible, especially something based on 'finaglers constant' (FC=answerwant/answergot) like dark matter.

        • by yndrd1984 (730475) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:23PM (#40227843)

          They are finding additional %s. Brown dwarfs, extra H2 in the voids etc.

          Right, but none of them have the right properties (no EM interactions, etc) to be dark matter, not to mention that their mass is trivial compared to the amount required.

          Anything is possible, especially something based on 'finaglers constant' (FC=answerwant/answergot) like dark matter.

          We're a little past that stage. For example, we have observed galaxies colliding in ways that separate the visible mass from the non-visible mass - i.e. the stars, gas etc, interact via EM and slow down, while the majority of the mass (inferred through gravitational lensing) continues on as if it's affected only by gravity. It's hard to ascribe that kind of behavior to dim stars or extra-galactic H2.

  • Fantastic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @04:47PM (#40225751) Homepage Journal

    I find it fascinating that theories developed in the first half of the last century continue to stand up to observation. This fits the predictions of general relativity, and that is almost as exciting as if they discovered something that totally blew away the predictions. The latter would mean we go back to the cutting board, but this is, as I said, almost as exciting. It makes me wonder how much of the 'missing mass' that we lump into the dark matter bucket is actually contained in bodies like this; bodies so massive that we can barely fathom their 'size'.

    • ...because the old theories make it WAY too hard to achieve practical interstellar travel and planetary colonization.

    • by yndrd1984 (730475)

      It makes me wonder how much of the 'missing mass' that we lump into the dark matter bucket is actually contained in bodies like this; bodies so massive that we can barely fathom their 'size'.

      I'm gonna guess 'not much'. If there were a lot of them, every once in a while something would run into one, and believe me, we'd notice.

      • Re:Fantastic (Score:4, Informative)

        by kanto (1851816) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @05:40PM (#40226375)

        It makes me wonder how much of the 'missing mass' that we lump into the dark matter bucket is actually contained in bodies like this; bodies so massive that we can barely fathom their 'size'.

        I'm gonna guess 'not much'. If there were a lot of them, every once in a while something would run into one, and believe me, we'd notice.

        If there were lots of them then we'd also see them because of the gravitational lens effect they'd impart.

        • by Gr8Apes (679165)

          It makes me wonder how much of the 'missing mass' that we lump into the dark matter bucket is actually contained in bodies like this; bodies so massive that we can barely fathom their 'size'.

          I'm gonna guess 'not much'. If there were a lot of them, every once in a while something would run into one, and believe me, we'd notice.

          If there were lots of them then we'd also see them because of the gravitational lens effect they'd impart.

          That would only apply if there were stars on the other side of them (from us) to generate light so that we could see the lens effect. What if these super massive black holes are on the edge of the universe or between the edge and the first lit stars, how would we know? (since the universe is defined by the shockwave expanding outward from the big bang, the other side is considered "nothing" since we have no known measurement or indications of what lies on the other side - think of the universe as a bubble)

          • > That would only apply if there were stars on the other side of them (from us) to generate light so that we could see the lens effect.

            True. That experiment has been done, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_compact_halo_object [wikipedia.org]

            There is much wrong with everything else you say. First, black holes can't be only at the edge of the universe. There is no edge - the universe is isotropic, as far as we know. Unless you suggest that the black holes were in the early universe but have somehow vanish

            • by Gr8Apes (679165)

              There is much wrong with everything else you say. First, black holes can't be only at the edge of the universe. There is no edge - the universe is isotropic, as far as we know. Unless you suggest that the black holes were in the early universe but have somehow vanished over time. But in any case, that is totally irrelevant. We see dark matter effects IN galaxies NEAR us that we can see ALL of. If all the black holes are at the edge of the universe, they aren't affecting the dynamics of the galaxies we can see, and thus can't be cause of the dark matter effect.

              Much wrong? Let's start with yours:

              Black holes at the edge of the universe - you've been there? You purport to know what happened in the first ms, seconds, minutes, and hours of the universe? Please do enlighten the rest of us. We have absolutely no idea what's further out from the prototype galaxies. We've seen very little if any evidence of the monster stars that gave us all our higher order elements. Each one of those was truly massive, existed for a very short time, and went super nova for lack of a be

              • > Black holes at the edge of the universe - you've been there? You purport to know what happened in the first ms, seconds, minutes, and hours of the universe? Please do enlighten the rest of us. We have absolutely no idea what's further out from the prototype galaxies.

                I think you're confusing time with space. There is clearly a "time" edge to the universe, the big bang itself. But there is no evidence for a space edge of the universe. Yes, we don't have much evidence for what exists time-beyond th

                • by Gr8Apes (679165)

                  My point was we have no idea what's closer to the edge. Dark matter/energy are recent theories to support recent observations that didn't fit the original model, nor could explain the newly observed accelerating expansion of the universe. (Until just the last couple of decades, it was assumed that the universe was decelerating, and the question was would it contract) But, IANA(A)P, so I might have my dates and prevalent theories off by a little bit, it still highlights that they are theories and still chang

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            There was no "before" the big bang. There was no time, space, matter, energy, distance, or anything else. Our universe may be inside another universe, or there may be other universes along side ours, but other universes may not even have such a thing as "time".

            • by Gr8Apes (679165)
              I will disagree with the absolute statement about there being no "before" the big bang. We don't know, we have nothing to measure or even really speculate against. The only thing we can say with certainty is that time existed after the big bang in our universe (defined as that volume containing the energy of the big bang). Other than that - all sorts of fantastical things as you mention might or might not exist. We simply don't know and have no way to prove or disprove any of the conjectures. Logical reason
      • right. the article did mention that these rogue supermassive black holes are rare. hardly enough to put a dent in the 95% of the universe's "missing" mass.
      • by Loughla (2531696)

        believe me, we'd notice.

        In the grand scheme of the universe, how long have we been able to notice these things? And, in the grand scheme of the universe, how do we define a lot?

        It's all relative, but I'm not an astrophysicist. If there is one in the room, can you please speak up?

        • by yndrd1984 (730475)

          In the grand scheme of the universe, how long have we been able to notice these things?

          Not for long, but they tend to be obvious. It would be like completely missing a small, dark galaxy that turns hydrogen into X and gamma-rays and distorts the image behind it.

          And, in the grand scheme of the universe, how do we define a lot?

          Well, since we were talking about them possibly being at least a significant part of the mass of dark matter, I'd say 'a lot' would be enough that they outweigh the visible mas

    • by tywjohn (1676686)

      bodies so massive that we can barely fathom their 'size'

      Reminds me of the last date I had.

  • You mean, by being sucked into a giant black hole? Unless you have some suggestions on how to make a giant black hole change its course, or how to move your solar system out of the way of a giant roaming black hole, that is...
    • by Tarlus (1000874)

      That statement implies that black holes should not be ignored... not that they should be combated.

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        If you have a "problem" black hole, the eventual outcome will be entirely the same whether you ignore it or not! Me, I'm all for hiding my head in the sand and hoping we don't get sucked into a black hole anytime soon. I can't see you, Black Hole! La la la la la!
        • by Tarlus (1000874)

          Yeah, unfortunately I don't see us finding a way to be proactive about an incoming black hole. On the other hand, I'd be pretty darned curious to see what is on the other side of it...

    • Sounds like something that could be straight out of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Easy. We just need a group of roughnecks led by Bruce Willis and some nuclear warheads. Right?

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Bruce Willis can save Earth from destruction. He has a proven track record.

        We must kidnap and freeze him so we can restore him whenever an apocalypse looms.

      • by JTsyo (1338447)
        A black hole might be too much for Bruce and his merry band, it would be time to send up Check Norris to karate kick the back hole.
  • If you mean supermassive, damn well say supermassive; from the headline, anyone would think "Duh, of course they do -- whaddya think happens when a solo star (say, ejected from its galaxy by a close pass) with tens of solar masses collapses..."

    Supermassive black holes, generally understood to be found only in galactic cores, are much more interesting.

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • Couldnt a black hole just consume all the stars in its galaxie to end up a loaner?

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @05:33PM (#40226281)
      No... the stars in a galaxy are orbiting their own collective center of gravity, not the blackhole. It just so happens that this collective center of gravity often attracts enough stars that it collapses into a super massive black hole. The most likely scenario for the blackhole to lose it's galaxy is in a collision with another galaxy (although "Collision" is a bad word since nothing actually hits anything else) The center of mass of the 2 combined galaxies would radically change rather suddenly (in galactic terms) and the Super massive blackhole would begin orbiting the new center of gravity. If it's orbit is too far out, it would get flung off. In most situations stars would get flung out with it. But rarely it could shoot off on it's own.
      • by Tarlus (1000874)

        (although "Collision" is a bad word since nothing actually hits anything else)

        I like to think of it as merging.

        • by mug funky (910186)

          more like a brief merging of heavenly bodies followed by a massive ejection of.. um. stars.

          sorry, i was trying to make it filthy but failed to find a plausible way to refer to stars as fluids. i guess they can be modelled as such...

    • by Maritz (1829006)

      If you have a star that goes supernova and leaves say an 8 solar mass remnant, it has exactly the same gravity as a star with 8 solar masses. Being a black hole doesn't give it 'stronger' gravity in any sense, it just means that it has a superdense core that is guaranteed to pull you in and crush you if you get too close. (from your own point of view at least - to an outside observer you will move asymptotically towards the event horizon, increasingly redshifted, but never quite passing the horizon)

      Most sup

  • They can capture the light from a star, but they can't catch a cab.

    ( sorry )

  • Although loner black holes may be an entity that has to be reckoned with, they would still be rare."
    Without lots of matter to use as a fuel source they would evaporate after a fashion.

  • by MetricT (128876) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @05:44PM (#40226417) Homepage

    If you were to take the 3 million solar mass black hole in the center of the Milky Way, and plop it into the solar system where the sun is, the Schwartzchild radius would be well within the orbit of Mercury. We wouldn't lose a single planet, though an earth "year" would shrink to roughly 2 hours. Hold your fist at arm's length. That's how big it would appear in the sky.

    Now imagine trying to see something like that, from 4 billion light years away, moving faster than galactic escape velocity. The only reason you can see it at *all* is that it's still siphoning galactic gas into its accretion disk. Once it hits intergalactic space, you'll never see it again.

    Three million solar masses sounds huge, but is a microscopic fraction of the Milky Way's total mass (1-4 trillion solar masses). Given the quantity of matter orbiting near the center of a galaxy, I'd believe it likely that even if the central black hole were ejected, a new one would form in short (cosmologically speaking) time. So core ejection may not be a one-off, but a common event during galaxy collisions. In which case, there might be enough of them to partly explain dark matter (though certainly not enough to explain it all).

    We also know there is a relationship between the mass of the central black hole, and the "tightness" of the arms in a spiral galaxy. But how would core ejection affect this? Given the speed of light, the outer regions of a galaxy would be tightly wound, while the inner region would be loosely wound (after core ejection). Wouldn't that look an awful lot like a barred spiral?

    So many interesting questions, so few answers...

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      not lose a single planet? only if you mean cranking up the Earth's kinetic energy to maintain its present orbit. if a straight magical substition happened, the entire solar system's orbits would cross the horizon.

    • by Mspangler (770054)

      "If you were to take the 3 million solar mass black hole in the center of the Milky Way, and plop it into the solar system where the sun is, the Schwartzchild radius would be well within the orbit of Mercury. We wouldn't lose a single planet, though an earth "year" would shrink to roughly 2 hours."

      How high would the tides be? Would the tide just fall into space? Would Earth be outside the Roche radius, or would it disintegrate? If Earth is orbiting at 44% of the speed of light, the meteor shower on the lead

    • But how would core ejection affect this?

      I can't explain it... and while the science is well understood, in practice it seems to work better than any science can explain, as time and again it has been shown that if you eject the core and fire a few photon torpedos at it, destroying it spectacularly in close proximity to your ship, somehow, even though there really is no shock wave in the vacuum of space to transfer the momentum needed, and even though your WARP drive and main propulsion is now busted, it somehow allows your ship to escape a gravit

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Ah, that only works with a "red matter" black hole. You know, the kind of black hole that you can go through and come out a hundred years in the past!

        • Ah, that only works with a "red matter" black hole. You know, the kind of black hole that you can go through and come out a hundred years in the past!

          You are mistaken; ejecting the WARP core is an all encompassing solution [memory-alpha.org] to escape any number of unfortunate circumstances one may find one's ship in while exploring the Galaxy.

  • by yoctology (2622527) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @06:11PM (#40226701)
    then black holes can be too. We have observed almost a score of so of stars with the 2 million MPH velocity required to escape from a galaxy, which they probably got from proximity to a black hole. There is no reason not to think that a black hole could have the same close orbit. Just much much, rarer.
  • How to Find a Roaming Black Hole...

    Look in the Red Dwarf District.

    • by dylsexia (1921540)

      From Red Dwarf "Marooned"

      Hilly: Well, the thing about a black hole - its main distinguishing feature - is it's black. And the thing about space, the colour of space, your basic space colour, is black. So how are you supposed to see them?
      Rimmer: But five of them? . How can you manage to miss five black holes?
      Hilly: It's always the way, innit? You hang around for three million years in deep space and there hasn't been one, then all of a sudden five turn up at once.

  • Being ejected? Is it possible, that the Black Hole is more like a boat anchor, and the galaxy continues to move on?
  • A "disheveled, distant galaxy" and a giant black hole?

  • And they say that gravity is the weakest of the fundamental forces. Gravity can trap unbelievable amounts of matter until the the heat death of the universe; it can shape the orbits of galaxies that are millions of light-years in diameter; it can create conditions that we simply don't have the math to explain. Gravity is the one force that we don't have a good theory to explain yet.

    Pshaw. Gravity sees your Strong Force and raises you a Theory of Everything. :)
    • by Maritz (1829006)

      And yet my puny electromagnetic powered muscles can overcome the mighty gravity of Earth by picking up a lemon, and even then I'm not even that short of breath. A few minutes and I'm ready to go again. Have that, gravity.

      Still, maybe it only *seems* weak because it's leaking out of our 3d brane world into higher dimensional space. ;)

  • .. You should meet my ex!

  • Gee, how is Bruce Willis going to save us from this new peril?

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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