We know there tend to be supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, but the nuances of galactic evolution is still a mystery. Now two discoveries may shedding light on these dark places and the galaxies that form around them.
In a cloud of molecular gas near the center of the Milky Way, astronomers have found a giant black hole 100,000 times the mass of the Sun. It’s the second largest supermassive black hole in our galaxy and the best evidence of a class of 'intermediate-mass' black holes. Astronomers have been looking for these because they might be the key to understanding how supermassive black holes can get so big.
We know that supermassive black holes formed early in the Universe’s lifetime, we just don’t totally know how. One theory says that intermediate-mass black holes might act as seeds for their supermassive cousins. Larger, more gravitationally-dominant galaxies could cannibalize smaller ones that cross their paths, the larger black hole at the center pulling the material of the smaller one into itself.
The thing is, we also recently found the furthest supermassive black hole, which means it’s super old. With a mass 800 million times greater than our Sun, it’s enormous. And did I mention, it’s old?