Eventually the supermassive black holes, which are thought to be hiding in the cores of most galaxies in the universe, may themselves merge, creating a super-supermassive black hole. This is an inevitable part of black hole growth in galactic evolution.
ANALYSIS: Rare ‘Medium-Sized' Black Hole Creates Galactic Dead Zone
But in the case of SDSS K1126+2944, the two black holes are still some distance apart and in new research presented this week at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting at Kissimmee, Fla. and published in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers have taken a stab at understanding why one of the black holes is lacking a population of stars, a feature that will undoubtedly impact its supply of in-falling matter.
"One black hole is starved of stars, and has 500 times fewer stars associated with it than the other black hole," said lead investigator Julie Comerford, of Colorado University, Boulder. "The question is why there's such a discrepancy."
According to Comerford, there are two possibilities. The first is that, during the merging of the two galaxies, tidal and gravitational forces ripped through the black hole's neighborhood, scattering its surrounding stars. But there's another and rather curious explanation that could fill the gap in our knowledge about how black holes grow.