Composite X-ray, optical and IR image of M82 and center (inset)
Credit: Inset: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Tsinghua Univ./H. Feng et al.; Full-field: X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHU/D.Strickland; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA/The Hubble Heritage Team; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of AZ/C. Engelbracht

Seeds of the Supermassive?

In theory black holes can have any mass. In practice we know of only 2 categories of black hole masses: stellar mass black holes (which have a mass a few times the mass of our Sun), or the supermassive variety which lurk at the centers of (perhaps all) galaxies, and which weigh in at millions or billions of Suns. But is there a connection between the two? Astronomers are hotly debating the existence of "intermediate mass" black holes, that is, black holes with masses of a few hundred to a few thousand of solar masses. The image above shows a composite image of the starburst galaxy M82 which perhaps reveals new evidence. An optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in green and orange, infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope in red, and X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue. The inset shows an X-ray image of the center of M82 and reveals two bright X-ray sources near the center of the inset image. Astronomers believe these two sources are probably intermediate mass black holes with masses between a few hundred and tens of thousands of solar masses. The location of these middle weight black holes near the center of M82 suggests that they may have been survivors who avoided being swallowed by the supermassive black hole beast dead center of M82. Or perhaps these medium-mass objects (and similar ones) are actually the seeds from which supermassive black holes grow to their enormous girth.
Published: May 3, 2010

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 10-May-2010 07:25:20 EDT